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Just a dump made by wind and water into a fantastic mountain. 



THE ;wO 

GREAT GOLD REEF 

The Romantic History of 
the Rand Goldfields 

by 
ADI2LE LEZARD 



Publishers 
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY 

INDIANAPOLIS NEW YORK 



, 1937 
BY ADELE LEZARD 



FIRST EDITION 



Published in England and ad interim copyright 

established under the title Gold Blast 
Printed In the United States of America 



PRINTED AND BOUND BY 

BRAUN WORTH & CO . INC. 

BUILDERS OP BOOKS 

BRIDGEPORT, CONN. 



TO 

VML. 

AND 

HI. 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

I DESIRE TO THANK THE JOHANNESBURG STAR AND THE RAND DAILY 

Mail for placing their many resources at my disposal, and for the 
full use of their collection of mining photographs. I have, too, 
to remember gratefully the tea arid sandwiches, the private office 
and the many other encouragements of the Star. 

I want to thank Mr. Godfray Lys for the many hours of rem- 
iniscences and for his enthusiasm. I wish to pay tribute, too, 
to Dr. C. Beyers, of the Pretoria archives, who helped me when I 
was in a dilemma and taught me that it is wise to be bilingual in 
South Africa today. 

But most of all I want to thank those mining authorities, those 
officials and experts, who owing to some tiresome rule of their 
own must remain anonymous. They made this book possible, 
and that perhaps is why they insist on their anonymity. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

PROLOGUE xiii 

I THE BEGINNING 17 

II THE GRAIN SPROUTS 44 

III OF THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE, AGAINST THE PEOPLE 70 

IV BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 91 
V KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 117 

VI BLACK BUSINESS 141 

VII WHITE HEAT 169 

VIII THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 191 

IX VISITORS' DAY AT LANGLAAGTE 217 

X EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 227 

XI SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 250 

XII AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 271 

EPILOGUE 299 

INDEX 307 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Just a dump made by wind and water into a fantastic F SS a 

mountain Frontispiece 

President Paul Kruger . . ... 34 

Johannesburg is proclaimed a public diggings. The official no- 
tice in the government gazette in September, 1886 ... 70 

The late Cecil John Rhodes 86 

Barney Barnato 106 

Johannesburg in 1886 122 

A view of Johannesburg on its fiftieth birthday in 1936 . . . 142 
Cyanide vats at New Kleinf ontein .... . 158 

Drilling into the clearly defined gold reef thousands of feet below 

the surface at Modderfontein "B" 178 

They have less than eighteen inches in which to work their eight- 
hour shift in this section of Van Ryn Deep . . . 178 
The speckled gold reef of the Witwatersrand may be clearly seen 

behind the concrete supports in this large slope .... 198 
The slanting angle of the reef is shown in this picture taken 

in a slope at Crown Mines 198 

J. B. Robinson . 214 

Machinery which was part of the gold story yesterday lies rusting 

in the grass today 230 

Rand landscape with a background of man-made mountains 

or dumps . . .... 266 

A runaway skip taken shortly after it had raced up through the 
earth and crashed through the iron framework of the head- 
gear, killing many people 282 

Map 3 2 



PROLOGUE 

THE BLOOD POUNDS AGAINST YOUR TEMPLES. 

The perspiration which had, at first, dripped from your forehead 
slowly, almost rhythmically, now begins to splash away hurriedly. 
It is difficult to breathe. The hot wet air beats about your throat 
(in a menacing, surly way. Your voice, which left you timidly 
enough, develops into a hollow roar as it swirls round the jagged 
'tunnel. The light from your carbide lamp throws grotesque, 
dancing figures onto the rock around, but it is soon drowned in 
>the thick darkness a few feet away. Water drips from the craggy 
'arch over your head, leaving a glistening surface of stone and slate. 
'Underfoot the ground is slushy and slippery. The perspiration 
courses down your body in streams. 

You feel trapped down here, and slowly your mind begins to 
appreciate the horror of entombment. In front of you stretches a 
'long narrow tunnel which has been blasted out of the rock. It 
winds its way through the earth for some distance, and then stops. 
The only way to escape is to retrace your steps through the slush 
and mud, squeezing your way past boulders, and along sharp, 
razor-like walls. On and on through the dark, struggling to make 
your legs obey your will; on and on, while your overheated brain 
/imagines a fall of rock just ahead, imagines the crack, the roar of 
falling stones, the dust flying, the darkness thicker and more solid 
than any darkness you have ever known. 

As you drag your body along the bottom of the earth, you are 
Acutely conscious of the distance that separates you from the life 
you knew only two hours ago: the buses, and the people, the shops; 
newspaper boys yelling, dogs playing on the square of lawn in 
front of the public library, morning tea at Madeleine's, and Eliza- 
beth Bergner at the Colosseum. 

You are a long way from all that now. Eight thousand five 
hundred feet. Eight thousand five hundred feet below the ground. 

xiii 



xiv PROLOGUE 

You are at the bottom of the world's deepest mine. 
At the bottom of the earth. 

And yet there was a time . . . 
There was a time when . . , 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 



CHAPTER I 

THE BEGINNING 

WHEN PIET MARAIS BOARDED THE BARQUE ATWICK IN TABLE BAY HE 

was setting out to seek his fortune in a world which promised 
adventure to the brave and wealth to the favored. And when 
Captain Brewer turned his ship away from the shadow of Table 
Mountain into the Atlantic Ocean, Piet Marais, on the first stage 
of his trip to California, was excited. 

He left behind him a land torn by conflicting ideals. Twelve 
years before, in 1836, the Great Trek had begun, and his fellow 
countrymen had set off across the borders of the Cape into the 
wildness of the unknown lands beyond. The white-tented 
wagons, drawn by long teams of oxen, had struggled up the high 
mountain ranges and on deeper into the continent, farther and 
farther away from the hated British rule. Beyond them lay dry 
burning wastes, swarming with wild animals and alive with 
savage native warriors. But they pushed on unfearing; strong 
men and women made doubly strong by the belief that they were 
moving toward freedom and away from the injustice of the Cape. 
By day they led their wagons and drove their cattle through rocky 
passes, over the hills and across the desolate, parched country of 
the Karoo. The men of the party shot game for the pot; the 
women cooked it; and at night, when the caravans had stopped 
under the cloudless velvet night, there would be prayers, and the 
Bible, the only book these people knew, would be reverently 
fingered, read and re-read, before they slept in the long grass or 
on the wooden floors of their wagons. 

Party after party set out across the border, to open out fanwise 
in different directions under different leaders Potgieter, Retief, 
Maritz, Uys, Triechard and there was a young boy called Ste- 
phanus Paulus Kruger with one of the hands. 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

There was plenty of adventure in the Great Trek for Piet Marais 
had he wanted it. There was primarily the adventure of survival. 
Stories trickled into Capetown, at first slowly, then with alarming 
frequency stories of brutal murders, massacres, and bloody wars 
with the savages of the hinterland. The first party to leave the 
colony had been attacked by a band of natives, and all its members 
except two small children were murdered. The next party, mov- 
ing on in an easterly direction, ran into a belt of tsetse-fly and fever, 
which destroyed the cattle and left only one man and a few women, 
alive. 

And in the north, Hendrik Potgieter left his party one day with 
eleven other men to explore the land. He traveled as far as Zout- 
pansberg, where he found rich soil, pastures and water, and in 
high spirits he turned back to report his pleasing discoveries to 
the rest of his party. As he neared the place where last he had left 
the wagons, he was greeted by a scene of indescribable horror. 
The warriors of the Chief Moselekatse, coming across a little party 
of white people in their country, had set upon them with their 
assegais and knives and murdered all who could not escape. Pot- 
gieter had prepared for the second native attack, which he knew 
would soon come. He had lashed together the fifty wagons in a 
circle, and filled all the open spaces with thorn trees. Inside this 
circle the men and women of the party collected to wait for the 
onslaught. 

It was not long before lines of black bodies had come creeping 
toward the laager. As they grew nearer, the Matabele warriors 
leaped forward, flinging their assegais toward the circle of wagons, 
bellowing madly and hissing like a thousand snakes. But from 
the wheels and spokes of the wagons the guns of the trekkers spat 
out, and the army of black men fell before the fire. 

They retreated, but not before they had driven 06 all the 
trekkers* cattle. In payment they left behind a hundred and 
fifty-five corpses. 

While, in the fair land of Natal, Piet Retief had met the great 
Chief Dingaan. It was told in Capetown how Retief, enchanted 
by the fertility and beauty of this country, went to Urokung- 

[18] 



THE BEGINNING 

unhlovu, the Zulu capital, to make terms with Dingaan for his 
trekkers. 

The great King of the Zulus lived in an enormous hollow circle 
made by row upon row of huts, with an empty space or drill- 
ground in the center. Living with Dingaan was an English mis- 
sionary named Owen, and a young boy named William Wood, 
who was a firm favorite at this black Court. 

Dingaan received Retief and his comrades in the most friendly 
and hospitable manner. They were entertained to a huge parade; 
they were given great squares of beef to eat and calabashes of 
millet beer, and when Retief broached the subject of Natal, 
Dingaan listened amiably. If, said the chief, the white man would, 
as a mark of sincerity, recover a herd of about seven hundred cattle 
which had been stolen from a Zulu outpost by Sikonyela, son of 
Ma Ntatisi, then he, Dingaan, would give Natal to the white man 
to live in. 

Away went Retief to Sikonyela, and soon, happy and elated, he 
returned with the cattle to Umkungunhlovu. Once again he and 
his followers were received, in the friendliest possible manner. 
Dingaan expressed himself as highly pleased with the return of 
his cattle, and he instructed Owen to draw up a paper setting 
down that he agreed to give Natal to Retief. This was done, 
checked and approved by Dingaan, and the paper handed over to 
the leader of the trekkers. Just before they left they were invited 
to gather in the center of the kraal, drink some beer, and bid their 
host good-by. Leaving their guns outside, the trekkers moved into 
the circle, sat on the ground and prepared to drink from the cala- 
bashes, when Dingaan's voice suddenly tore through the air. 

"Seize them!" he roared, and immediately a regiment of black 
soldiers fell upon the unarmed men, and dragged them away to 
batter their skulls in with heavy clubs, 

Yes, there was plenty of adventure in the Great Trek for Piet 
Marais. But he wanted something more than just driving wagons 
and fighting black men. He wanted romantic adventure, with a 
romantic and profitable goal. He had decided that he wanted to 
prospect for gold* And so one March morning in 1849 ^ 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

South Africa to look for gold in California. The Atwic\ took 
him to Liverpool, and the Jane Dixon took him to San Francisco, 
where he landed ten months after leaving Table Bay. He headed 
straight for the Yuba River gold diggings, where he started pros- 
pecting. He wandered from Marysville to Oak Valley, from Oak 
Valley to Goodyear's Bar. He found companions, but he did not 
find gold. 

From St. Domingo to Double Springs, from Suscol Valley to 
Mariposa River he went, from Aqua Frio to Bear's Valley, mak- 
ing a few dollars and losing them again. For two years he moved 
across California, and then, still looking for the jar of gold at the 
end of the rainbow, he left San Francisco for the goldfields of 
Australia. He was not much more fortunate in this country, and 
after a year of prospecting his thoughts turned back toward his 
own country. One day he wandered down to Melbourne to sell 
his little store of gold dust. The sailing ship Frittercairn from the 
Cape was in port, and Marais went aboard. There he met a man 
who had been carrying a letter for him for many weeks. It con- 
tained news of illness in his family in South Africa, and Marais 
decided it was time he went home. Two days later he sailed for 
Capetown in the good ship Sarah Sands. 

While Piet Marais had been away, the shape and form of South 
Africa had altered very considerably. Those men who had been 
trekkers and pioneers when he left were now independent 
citizens of an independent state. The fighters of the covered- 
wagon era had now settled down in the country north of the Vaal 
to be good farmers and good husbands. But they had by no means 
given up their fighting ways. They fought with the natives, they 
quarreled among themselves, and they fought the British 
Government, with the result that at last, in 1852, the independence 
of the South African Republic as this colony of trekkers was 
known was acknowledged. 

The new citizens of the South African Republic had settled 
themselves down on farms as far away as possible from one another. 
This attitude was prompted not so much by a distaste for one 
another, as by an insatiable greed for land. It was a matter for 

[20] 



THE BEGINNING 

great annoyance if one fanner could see the smoke of the next 
man's chimney, and he would most probably move farther on to 
rid himself of this irritating sight. The result was that each 
farmer had a tract of land of anything from six to twelve thousand 
acres to himself. Here the fighting pioneer settled down to grow 
mealies, tend his cattle and occasionally ride out to punish some 
marauding band of natives. 

These simple people were quite without education; they were 
unable to read and write, and were totally incapable of teaching 
their children anything other than the Bible, which they them- 
selves knew by heart. Courage, freedom to be held firmly and 
resolutely, and the art of shooting straight were the only rules of 
thumb for the children of the new Republic. 

The country was governed by a Volksraad, or People's Parlia- 
ment, the members of which were elected from among the farm- 
ers, but as there was no money at all in the Treasury, and as a 
bare unvarnished knowledge of how to shoot straight is not the 
best qualification for running a people's parliament, the South 
African Republic was virtually without government when Piet 
Marais arrived. 

The representatives of the people met, from time to time, to dis- 
cuss the destiny of their republic in the white-washed living room 
of first one farmstead and then another. Here they sat round in a 
circle on chairs and boxes, trying desperately to be formal and 
businesslike, struggling hard to remember those high-sounding 
phrases, those authoritative sentences such as should properly fall 
from the lips of a leader. A circle of great hulking men, strong in 
the arm, straight in the eye, and simple in the head. The women- 
folk, in rusty black dresses and large sunbonnets, moved happily 
in and out of these Council meetings, handing round strong black 
coffee and mealie cakes, laughing boisterously among themselves, 
and throwing their conversation right across the room into the 
circle of statesmen. It was all delightfully inf ormal but not on 
purpose. 

One tenet, and one tenet only, did these big bearded farmers 
understand, and that was the doctrine of freedom. They had 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

suffered the hundred hardships of the Great Trek, they had fought 
and died for this principle, and they did not mean ever to forfeit 
their hard-won liberty. 

Just at this moment, in 1852, their only embarrassment was too 
much freedom and too little money. The citizens of the South 
African Republic were so free, indeed, that they never thought, 
for one moment, of paying their taxes to the State. The Treasury, 
as a result, was so empty that the Government could not raise the 
funds to pay an outstanding debt of five pounds, and it was forced 
to give the creditor a six-thousand-acre farm in settlement of the 
account, much to his annoyance. 

The representatives of the people tried everything to get money 
from their burghers. They coaxed, wheedled, bullied, and finally, 
almost with a sob in their official voice, they begged. 

"The Volksraad in all reasonableness asks the public for support, 
and that every one of the public shall bear in mind to contribute 
something toward the maintenance of our State," they cried. 

But this appeal, piteous as it was, fell upon deaf ears, and the 
people of the South African Republic went their ways unheeding. 
The country was supposed to derive its income from a tax of four 
shillings and sixpence a year on every burgher over twenty years 
of age. This is probably how the metaphor of wringing blood out 
of a stone was born. At any rate, the Volksraad went on meeting, 
and went on deciding now to demand, now to ask nicely for 
money. And the people of the State went on determining not to 
take any notice. And in the meantime the trade of the country 
was conducted by barter. 

Constant disturbances with the natives occurred, and the People's 
Parliament, driven frantic with economics, decided to appeal to 
the conscience of their fellow men. Thus, when a military ex- 
pedition was sent to quash a native rising, the burghers were in- 
formed that the costs would be met by public subscription, to be 
collected after the expedition. The battle was fought and won, and 
the victorious Commandant-General confidently appealed for 
gifts to defray the expense of two cannon. This eloquent appeal 
and the bravery and heroism of the burghers in the field gripped 



THE BEGINNING 

the heart and the imagination of about six thousand people, and 
forty-nine patriots responded to make a grand total subscription 
of eleven pounds five shillings. 

Now, Piet Marais had bought a horse in Capetown and had set 
off on a trip into the interior. He rode all through the beauty 
and greenery of the Cape, past the vineyards, up through the rocky 
gorges of the mountains, along land splashed with wild-growing 
arum lilies, stiff upright proteas and flaming daisies, on into the 
flat bare land beyond the Vaal, where the sight of water was a 
rare thing, where there were no trees, but only stunted bushes, 
and the rocks were hot to the touch. 

He stopped at many a farmhouse on the way to give greetings 
to the farmer and his wife, to drink coffee, and to rest a while. 
And sitting on the broad veranda, he told his listeners glowing 
stories of his adventures in Canada and Australia. He told them 
how he had searched for gold in the rocks and rivers, and how 
sometimes he had found it. He described to these rapt audiences 
what gold looked like, how much it weighed, what die feel of it 
was. And then on again he would go, waving good-by to a now 
admiring and envious host. 

He was heading for Potchefstroom, a little settlement of huts 
and houses that was the main town of the Republic. It was hard 
riding over the dry red ground, with the sun beating down re- 
lentlessly, and the dust flying round his horse's hoofs. And so, 
when he came to the Yokskei River, the sight of water was enough 
to prompt him to dismount. He drank from the river, washed 
his dirt-stained face and neck, and sat for a while on the bank, 
flicking stones into the water and watching the ripples grow. 

He picked up a piece of rock bigger than the rest, half raised his 
arm to throw, and then stopped. This rock was unusual. Its 
formation reminded him vaguely of something he had seen in 
California, or perhaps in Australia. He wondered. His interest 
awoke, and going across to his saddle-bag he dug out a shallow 
iron pan. Then he looked about for a hard stone to act as a pestle, 
and soon he was pounding away, crushing the rock into small 
pieces, and then smaller fragments, in the little iron tray. When 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

he had finished he washed the crushings expertly, once, twice, 
three times, slowly tilting the water round the pan. And gradu- 
ally along the rim a line of yellow began to appear. 

It was gold. 

Unmistakably it was gold. 

In Potchef stroom the news quickly spread that Piet Marais, who 
had prospected both in Canada and Australia, had found gold in 
the Yokskei River, near the Ridge of the White Waters or, as they 
called it, the Witte Waters Rand. He was besieged with inquiries, 
offers, suggestions and advice, and, in order to prove his discovery, 
he promised to give a public exhibition of his find. 

The court-house at Potchefstroom was engaged, and there to a 
packed audience of farmers Piet Marais explained how to look 
for gold and how to find it. He also showed them what he him- 
self had found in their Republic, at the Yokskei River, near the 
Witte Waters Rand. 

"The Council of the People's Parliament sat in solemn conclave. 
The first item on the agenda to be discussed was the discovery 
of gold in their country by Piet Marais. The second item 
was another emergency measure to collect funds for the State 
Treasury. 

The womenfolk chattered ceaselessly. The men in their big- 
brimmed hats looked important and interesting. This discovery 
of gold, the Chairman pointed out, was not so simple as it looked. 
It would be a good thing if gold were found to exist in the Repub- 
lic in large quantities. It would mean money and wealth and 
prosperity for the farmers. But they all knew, just as he knew, that 
where there was gold, there were foreigners. People from all over 
the world would rush to the South African Republic when they 
heard of the discovery. They would come in their thousands. 
Heathens, atheists, disbelievers, followers of Satan, and English- 
men would pour over their borders to search for their gold and 
bleed the Republic dry. Were they prepared, the Chairman 
thundered, were they prepared to be swamped by the foreigners ? 
Were they willing to forfeit the freedom which they and their 
fathers had fought so valiantly to gain? Were they ready to 

[24] 



THE BEGINNING 

sacrifice their beliefs nay, to sacrifice their homesteads, their 
wives and children to the cunning greed of the foreigner ? Were 
they prepared to submit once more to the injustice of the English? 
The Council, he suggested, knew that he spoke the truth. They 
knew that their liberty was at an end once the world learned of 
the discovery of gold. Were they willing, then, to throw away 
meekly this land which they had won by blood and sweat? Were 
they willing to sacrifice every ideal their fathers ever held? 
Were they? 

And the Council bellowed, "No." 

After the Volksraad had worked itself up into a state of patriotic 
frenzy, and cooled down again, somebody suggested it would be 
rather a clever thing for them to have their cake and eat it too. Why 
could not the People's Parliament send for this man Marais, and 
bind him on sacred oath to work secretly on their behalf ? If, it was 
pointed out, if Marais was bound by oath to the Volksraad, then 
the country could have gold as well as security. 

The big-bearded farmers, still a little flushed from their en- 
thusiasms, tasted this new idea. They rolled it round their mouths. 
They liked it. They pronounced it good. And so the Secretary, 
who had once lived in Holland, and could still read and write, was 
instructed to draw up an agreement between the Volksraad and 
Mr. P. J. Marais along the lines indicated at the meeting, and to 
send for Mr. Marais to sign it. 

The heart-rending appeal of the Commandant-General for 
funds was optimistically postponed. 

Piet Marais, not being a citizen of the South African Republic, 
was unaware of the immense freedom of the burghers. That is 
to say, he was not aware that it was customary to treat the Volks- 
raad with a light-hearted flippancy and firm disobedience. And 
so, when he was brought before the Council and presented with a 
paper for signature, he erroneously thought that he had no option 
but to conform. 

He was businesslike enough, at least, to read it through care- 
fully first, and he found that die terms offered him were not so 
bad, after all. 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

The agreement was set out in the Secretary's very best and most 
official Hollands, as follows: 

"AGREEMENT 

"entered into between the Honourable Volksraad of the 
South African Republic, on the one hand, and Mr. P. J. 
Marais, on the other hand, with the object of investigating 
and discovering gold mines probably in existence in this 
Republic. 

"(i) I, the undersigned P. J. Marais, hereby promise to 
ke^p secret all discoveries of gold mines discovered by me on 
the order and authority of the Honourable Volksraad of the 
South African Republic, and to bring them to the acquaint- 
ance of nobody excepting to my principals or to such as may 
be empowered by them and made known to me for that pur- 
pose. 

"(2) I also promise to exert my utmost endeavours to dis- 
cover the existence of gold mines or gold dust in rivers or 
spruits, and to report on them and disclose them by means of a 
written account submitted to each specified session of the 
Honourable Volksraad, and at the same time also to indicate 
in which locality in my opinion there should probably exist 
the most gold or dust. 

"(3) I furthermore take upon myself, in the event of other 
metals being discovered by me, of whatsoever nature they may 
be, to act likewise as undertaken by me concerning gold dust 
in sections i and 2 above. 

"(4) I also undertake to hand over to my principals all 
metals found by me, to do therewith as they might think fit, 
and to retain to myself nothing of what I may find. 

"(5) The Honourable Volksraad of the South African 
Republic hereby guarantees to the said Mr. P. J. Marais the 
full right to proceed with the discovery of gold mines and of all 
other useful and precious metals or precious stones, if these 
might exist and could be found within this Republic. 

"(6) When the said Mr. P. J. Marais succeeds in discover- 
ing gold, in one or more places, and the excavation thereof 
envisages profit for this country, the Honourable Volksraad 
guarantees to pay a sum of money, or the value thereof in 

[26] 



THE BEGINNING 

gold ore taken from one or more of the discovered mines, 
amounting to Rix-dollars 66,666-5-2, equal to 5000 sterling. 

"(?) If? however, the said Mr. P. J. Marais does not succeed 
in disclosing a sufficient supply of gold whereby the cost of 
excavation and the afore-mentioned reward could be met, the 
said Mr. Marais shall have no claim whatsoever to the reward 
stipulated in Section 6. 

"(8) The Honourable Volksraad undertakes to appoint a 
commission in all the existing districts, such as Lydenburg, 
Potchefstroom, Rustenburg and Zoutpansburg, and to make 
such commission known to Mr. P. J. Marais in writing, and 
the aforesaid Mr. Marais shall be bound, in the event of his 
discovering gold, to address himself to the commissioners of 
that district under which is situated the place where he shall 
have found the gold, and he shall not have the right to make 
any further diggings in such a place where he shall have dis- 
covered gold, excepting in the presence of the said district 
commissioners, under whose supervision all further investiga- 
tions shall have to be carried out in accordance with orders 
received. 

"(9) And when it may appear that the said Mr. Marais 
conducts himself meritoriously, and that he as a man of honour 
faithfully fulfils and carries out his promises and the orders 
given him by the Honourable Volksraad, the Government 
reserves to itself the right to assign to him a reward in pro- 
portion to his merits and the faithfulness shown by him, over 
and above the sum stipulated in Section 6 above; or, should 
at any time a mine discovered by him be worked or opened, 
to entrust him with the direction thereof. 

"(10) And the Honourable Volksraad reserves to itself the 
right to give to the said Mr. Marais from time to time such 
orders as time and circumstances might require, and on re- 
ceiving the same in writing he shall be bound to obey and 
carry them out. 

"( I3 And if the said Mr. Marais should wish to take one 
or more persons with him on his journey, he shall be bound to 
exercise care that they be persons of good conduct, and he 
shall be bound to let them sign a declaration that they would 
never, without permission or order obtained from the Honour- 

[27] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

able Volksraad, divulge anything seen by them in matters 
pertaining to gold dust found, nor make endeavours, without 
permission of the Honourable Volksraad, to accomplish any 
excavation of precious metals found, and the said Mr, Marais 
shall be bound to submit to the Honourable Volksraad agree- 
ments thus entered into and signed, to enable the latter to 
take legal steps against and punish such persons as might 
violate the vow signed by them. 

"(12) But when it should happen that the said Mr. P. J. 
Marais gives to any foreign power, government or particular 
individuals any information concerning the condition of the 
gold mines found, or anything pertaining thereto, by means of 
which the peace and freedom of this Republic should be dis- 
turbed or threatened, he would be punished by death without 
any excuse. 

"(13) All transgressions of a different nature, bearing on 
this matter, shall be dealt with in accordance with the existing 
laws of the country. 

'This done in our meeting at Potchefstroom on the 6th 
December, 1853, and two exact copies hereof have been made, 
for each of the parties one copy to serve as a proper reminder 
for both parties. 

"Signed on behalf of the Honourable Volksraad of the 
South African Republic north of the Vaal River. 

(Signed) "C. POTGIETER, 

"Chairman. 
"By order 

(Signed) "H, T, BUHRMAN, 
"Secretary. 

"Agreed to by me under the oath taken before the 
Honourable Volksraad and this day voluntarily agreed 
to and signed by me. 

(Signed) "P. J. MARAIS." 

Piet Marais thought the twelfth clause a little exacting, but 
nevertheless he obediently signed. The Volksraad were highly 
delighted at having a hand in this impressive-sounding document, 
and they congratulated Buhnnan, the Secretary, several times be- 

[28] 



THE BEGINNING 

cause the Treasury could not afford to increase his salary, and 
this was the most they could do for the able fellow. Then they 
sat back waiting for the money to roll in; every now and then 
they whispered words of encouragement to the Commandant- 
General and to one another. 

Marais took his horse and started off across the flat country of 
the Republic in search of gold. It was the peak of summer time. 
The short grass and stunted bushes were brown with dust, and 
the heat rose from the ground in a dancing haze. The shade 
offered by an occasional mimosa tree was no more than an illusory 
coolness, for the hard red ground was burning, and the still air 
was stifling. One empty mile after another stretched away to the 
horizon. Every now and again the lifelessness of the landscape 
was broken by a swarming herd of wild animals. Wildebeeste 
stamped and snorted across the sun-baked ground with heads 
lowered and eyeballs fiercely dilated. A dozen different sorts of 
buck picked their way in delicate leaps among the boulders 
and the bushes, and occasionally giraffe moved exaggeratedly 
across the ground, their legs following at a respectful distance be- 
hind the long, unbelievable neck. A rhinoceros would come roar- 
ing down the plains, his single murderous tusk hungry for flesh to 
tear, his hoofs thundering out clouds of dust. And on the ground 
the deadly black mamba, the cobra, the adder, the ringhals would 
slip silently away into the undergrowth. 

Piet Marais felt for the gun in his saddle, and whipped it out 
when he heard the throaty, snarling roar of lion just behind him. 
Two shots, and a heavily maned lion with his lean hungry lioness 
fell writhing to the ground. 

Marais rode on, through the heat and the dryness of the African 
country. At Dwars River he found specks of gold, but in minute 
quantities. In Bloed River he found traces again, but though he 
went back to the Yokskei River, and scoured the Ridge of the 
White Waters until the sun sank and the ground was hidden in 
darkness, he could not find any gold worth mentioning to the 
Volksraad. Just specks of it here and there to lead him on, always 
on, but never anything more, 

[29] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

From January to March he went on searching, from April to 
September. Then he heard the news of the Makapaanspoort 
murder, and he rode off on commando. Piet Potgieter, the 
elephant-hunter, had somehow offended the Chief Makapaan. 
He was caught by a band of native warriors and was flayed alive; 
his skin was made into a cloak for the black King. The passions 
of the Boers were fanned to flames by the horror of this murder, 
and they planned revenge. Marais joined the punitive army which 
was led by young Paul Kruger, a very able soldier, and they rode 
off to attack the natives in the hills. 

The Makapaan tribe fled before their guns into a cave a thou- 
sand feet long. This was the Boers' chance. They blocked the 
entrance to the cave with stones and thornbush and left the im- 
prisoned tribe to die of starvation and thirst. Well revenged for 
Potgieter's death, the commando rode back to their farmsteads, 
while Marais went on over the flat country looking for gold. 

From October to December, and into the New Year 

In the meantime the Volksraad at Potchefstroom had grown 
impatient. They sent a stern message to Marais demanding to 
know what he was doing, and instructing him to report fully 
to them. 

"HONOURABLE GENTLEMEN" (Marais wrote) 

"I am sorry to say I have nothing interesting to report. I 
visited different places on the other side of Zoutpansberg along 
the Crocodile River, as well as the cave on the east side of 
Zoutpansberg, and Blaauwberg on the west side of the same 
town but without finding anything interesting. As a result 
of expecting a commando last winter to attack the native chief 
Mapela, and afterwards the actual breaking out of war in 
October, November and December last, it was made impos- 
sible for me to inspect those regions near Mapela, Matata, 
Moraba and Zebedela, 

"In company with Mr. William Way I visited Yokeskey 
River in January last, and stayed there a week, but with the 
same result. I also visited Derdepoort and the new town 
Pretorium, but without finding anything. In February and 

[30] 



THE BEGINNING 

March I visited Marico and Malmaine, but found nothing 
worth while. 

'The copper mines along the Magaliesberg and in Marico 
seemed to me to be no richer than five to twenty-five per cent, 
and no copper mine under fifty per cent, will pay here. The 
copper mines of Namaqualand are from forty to seventy per 
cent, and are only nine 'treks' from Honee Klipberg; but here 
in this country labour will be much cheaper. 

"In the beginning of next June I hope to go on a cross- 
country tour in company with Mr. Jan Viljoen, Field-Cornet 
of Marico, to a stretch of land north-west of the Crocodile 
River between the native Chiefs Pegomoa and Matselekaats; 
and it may happen that we will go from there farther north 
in the direction of the land belonging to the native chief 
Maatselekaats and Missehier farther on. I hope to be in a 
position to give you a better report than this one when I come 
back." 

The People's Parliament was very angry indeed. It was sixteen 
months now since Marais had signed that agreement, and they 
had been waiting like fools and idiots for gold to be discovered 
in their country. 

They met in session and sat round in an annoyed circle, mutter- 
ing their grouses and spitting their disgust. The position was pre- 
posterous. This man Marais was a rogue and a scoundrel. What 
had he been doing all these sixteen months ? Yes, they would like 
to know, what had he been doing? It was obvious to them, as 
leaders of the people, that there was no gold in their Republic. 
They had been fooled by Marais. They had been tricked by him. 
They instructed the cultured Mr. Buhrman to write immediately 
to Marais ordering hi to report in person to the next meeting of 
the Volksraad, and forbidding him to proceed with his investiga- 
tions until that time. 

But Marais never turned up at that September session of the 
Volksraad. Tired and dispirited, he, too, had come to doubt the 
existence of gold. He had searched hard enough for it without 
success. He had covered practically every inch of the Republic 

[3*1 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

without finding it, so he concluded it could not exist. And as by 
this time he had also come to doubt the good nature and amiability 
of the People's Parliament, he slipped across the borders of the 
Republic, across the Vaal River, away from the phantom which 
he had thought gold, away into the land beyond, never to return. 
The Volksraad, sitting in Potchef stroom, ordered the officials of 
the State to collect all outstanding taxes and to be very frugal with 
public expenditure. 

Thirteen years passed. The Boer farmers went about their lives 
simply and peacefully. Their wives begat them children, and 
they plowed the land and sowed mealies and corn, cabbages and 
potatoes. The first excitement occasioned by the theory of gold 
in thtir State rapidly died, and was soon a dusty story of the past. 

Hunters and explorers crossed their borders, rested a while in 
the neat little settlement town of Pretoria, and then went their 
ways, some to seek ivory, others to seek adventure. 

It never struck any one member of the Republic to continue the 
search where Marais had left off. First, they did not believe gold 
existed in their country. Secondly, they were confident that any 
discovery of gold was a matter for the will of God, and if He 
willed it to be found in their land, well, then, there was nothing 
they could do about it. 

And so the land across the Vaal slumbered peacefully until 
Carl Mauch arrived, and even then it dozed a little. 

Carl Mauch was a young German who had come to explore 
the unknown continent of Africa. He was a fearless, likable per- 
son with a vivid imagination which was never limited to the 
tedious boundaries of fact. He and his friend Thomas Baines, 
the writer and explorer, were welcome guests at Pretoria, where 
they would sit over campfires at night listening to the Boers tell 
hair-raising stories about lions and cannibal chiefs, and capping 
each story with a still more sensational but far less accurate descrip- 
tion of adventure. Mauch, like the yet unknown Rhodes, turned 
his eyes to the north, and was drawn to the land beyond the Lim- 
popo River which Livingstone was then visiting. 



THE BEGINNING 

He, like everyone else who had visited the Republic, had heard 
tales of gold, but, unlike most people, he believed there might be 
a thread of possibility somewhere in this flimsy fabric of gossip. 
And so, when he left Pretoria on a trip into the interior to hunt 
elephants, he did not confine his thoughts solely to tusks. 

At a place called Tati in Bechuanaland, Mauch struck gold. A 
few months later he made another strike of auriferous quartz in 
the South African Republic, on the north side of the Oliphants 
River. The finds were rich, but limited. The quartz carried a 
high percentage of gold, but the formation did not persist, for the 
ore occurred in little pockets or shoots, which very soon petered 
out into barren rock. 

But Mauch's imagination had been fired, and with all the zest 
and color he could command he sent glowing, jubilant reports of 
his discoveries across Africa to percolate the minds and the hearts 
of the people. The more he thought about it, the more certain he 
was that he had stumbled on a hidden Eldorado. He said as much, 
and more, and his imagination leaped over gaps in the chain and 
vaulted across disappointing evidence which at first puzzled him, 
and then bored him. 

He sent excited reports of his discoveries home to Germany, an- 
nouncing to the world that he had found gold, rich gold in great 
quantities, which would provide work for thousands of people and 
open up the greatest goldfields in the world. 

Mauch had exaggerated on one point only. The gold was 
indeed rich and plentiful; there was enough to employ thousands 
of people and to prove the existence of the greatest goldfields in 
the world. Only it hadn't been found by Mauch or anybody else 
yet. 

The great golden reef of the Witwatersrand was still lying 
tucked snugly under the ground not very far away. 

However, that was Mauch's story, and he stuck to it, and many 
hundreds of people came swarming to Africa, from Germany, 
England, Australia and California, only to find that the gold of 
the South African Republic was unprofitable, and that it occurred 
in such small quantities as to make it barely worth while. 

[33] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

Most of the traveling prospectors went home disappointed. 
But one thing, at least, Mauch did for South Africa, and that was 
to make it gold-conscious, and from then onward people went 
about their jobs with their eyes glued to the ground hopefully. 
For the next two or three years there were sporadic bursts of gold- 
finding all over the country, but, as Marais would have said, 
there was nothing interesting to report. Mauch, by this time, was 
held in popular esteem as a scientist of the highest order, and he 
was bombarded with requests for his advice and opinion. Some- 
bodyold Robert Lys it was brought him a piece of rock from 
the Ridge of the White Waters and asked him to examine it 

"Yes, yes," said Mauch absent-mindedly, "I'll look into it." 

But he didn't, for he went back to his home in Germany on 
holiday soon afterward and was accidentally killed. 

In the meantime, the affairs of State of the South African 
Republic were no healthier than before. It is true that paper money 
had been issued, but this was looked upon with the greatest con- 
tempt by the Boer farmers, and the money was passed from hand 
to hand at a discount of about seventy-five per cent. Dealers and 
traders refused to sell goods against payment in notes, and the 
farmers, who had no money at all, went about practically in rags. 
At this time Thomas Burgers was appointed President of the 
Republic. 

Burgers was an educated and able man with ideas more advanced 
than those of his sixteenth-century electorate. The Treasury was 
in such a hopeless muddle when he took over the reins that he 
realized that the country must either get money at once or go 
under. He immediately offered a reward of five hundred pounds 
for the first discovery of gold which would prove payable to the 
State, and was adroit enough to avoid paying over the reward 
when perfectly justifiable demands were made for it. 

The discoveries of gold in South Africa continued. Sometimes 
they were small and unimportant. Sometimes they were rich 
pockets of gold which attracted excited rushes of diggers and then 
petered away miserably. And the diggers and prospectors tramp- 
ing across the Republic looking for gold trudged over and across a 

[34] 




President Paul Krueger. 



THE BEGINNING 

long band of curiously speckled rock on the Ridge of the White 
Waters. 

About this time a child was playing on a farm in the north of 
Cape Colony with a glittering pebble she had found in the river. 
A trader noticed it, and the first diamond of South Africa was 
discovered. This, on the face of it, seems to have nothing whatever 
to do with gold. 

On the outskirts of the little tin-roofed town of Pretoria there 
lived two or three families of English people. There were the 
Strubens, for example, who lived on the farm called the "Wil- 
lows," and near by there was old Captain Lys, and his son Godfray. 
They were on the best of terms with the British-hating Boers, for 
they had lived in this part of the country almost as long as the 
trekkers themselves. The Strubens' father, before he died, had 
even been a member of the Volksraad and State-Attorney of the 
Transvaal, while Captain Lys, after he had left the Navy and had 
his fill of hunting elephants, had settled down to live in Pretoria. 

At the Willows, Harry was lord of the house, and a married 
man. He was a great many years older than his young brother, 
and a great deal more severe and exacting. This was a little 
awkward, because Harry controlled the purse strings. 

Young Fred and his pal Godfray Lys spent their boyhood to- 
gether roaming the bare rocky wastes of country encircling Pre- 
toria. There was no school for them to attend, no university, so 
they spent the long sunlit days trudging across the veldt, watching 
the birds circling overhead, investigating the habits and habitats 
of the wild animals and the flowers, and examining the rocks and 
stones at their feet. Fred was especially interested in the geology 
of the country, and with the aid of the old-timers' experiences 
which he drank in at night in the little town of Pretoria, and with 
the results of his own observations, this straight-limbed, blue-eyed 
young man came to know a very great deal about the formation 
of his country, and soon he could tell the old-time trekkers things 
they themselves did not know about the rocks of the Republic. 

[35] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

It was Fred's particular hobby to believe that the country across 
the Vaal was rich in gold, and that somewhere in this bleak barren 
land there lay vast fields of gold. So absorbed was he in this theory, 
so firmly did he cling to his contentions, that his brother Harry, 
and everyone else, came to regard him as a fanatic, as a rather 
queer young man. But Godfray Lys believed in him, and these 
two young explorers would spend hours of their time discussing 
the great subjects of geology and gold. 

Now, Fred could not prove any one of his theories because he 
had no money, and no one, apart from the faithful Godfray, be- 
lieved in him. So he decided that he must go into business until 
he had accumulated enough capital to start prospecting. One 
bright November day, then, he packed up a couple of shirts and a 
pair of khaki trousers, said good-by to the Willows, and set off by 
cart for Natal to open up a brick-and-pottery factory outside Dur- 
ban. Godfray, pressed just as hard by the necessity of earning a 
living, joined the Army. 

In Natal, Fred managed to earn a few pounds, but it was a slow 
process. The country, at this time, was ringing with the reports 
of the wonderful gold discoveries at Barberton, and, thinking that 
this was the chance to increase his modest earnings quickly, Fred 
left the brick factory and set off for Moodie's Camp. He had no 
great faith in the gold deposits of Barberton, and although they 
were yielding rich returns to the diggers, he was suspicious about 
the continuity and persistence of the auriferous rock. Still, if he 
could make money at Barberton, he could then exploit his own 
gold theories, which centered round the Witte Waters Rand and 
the country beyond. 

At Barberton, Fred added a few more pounds to his capital, but 
the addition was not sensational enough, so he moved on to the 
Waterberg Camp. Here at Waterberg they told him there were 
rich deposits, and he started out to look for them. But he found 
nothing, and lost every penny he had laboriously saved. 

Disappointed and unhappy, he went back to the Willows to 
talk to his brother Harry. Fred was eloquent, and Harry was 
shrewd. Fred was convincing, and Harry knew that diamonds 

[36] 



THE BEGINNING 

and gold were being discovered all over the country. When, there- 
fore, he was confronted by the earnest, unwavering enthusiasm of 
his young brother Fred, Harry realized that there might be just a 
chance of making money, there might be just a possibility of strik- 
ing gold. So he agreed to finance Fred within reason. 

The two men were talking together on the broad wide veranda 
of the farmstead, when Dirk Geldenhuis rode up. Geldenhuis 
was a simple, straightforward, honest Dutchman, owner of the 
farm Wilgespruit, some thirty-five miles away, and a friend of 
the Strubens. He had always shown a conservative sort of interest 
in the discoveries of gold, and regarded young Struben with more 
than the prevailing respect. He had even been to Barberton to see 
for himself what was going on. Today he rode up to the Willows, 
dismounted and in customary Boer fashion, proceeded to talk 
about every subject under the sun save the one which he had pur- 
posely come to discuss. The Strubens listened and waited 
patiently. At last, having exhausted his dialectic powers, Gelden- 
huis drew a piece of rock out of his coat pocket and handed it to 
Fred, observing that the quartz on his farm seemed to be very 
like that which he had seen at Barberton. Fred looked at the piece 
of stone in his hand carefully 

"Where did you get this?" he asked. 

"On my farm at Wilgespruit," Geldenhuis said. 

"How far away is it?" 

"About thirty-five miles," 

"Can we go there?" 

"Yes, certainly. When?" 

"Now." 

And without waiting for any further explanations, Fred called 
for his horse, jumped into the saddle, and rode off toward Wilges- 
pruit, with a very surprised Geldenhuis following behind. 

When he returned to the Willows about a week later, Fred told 
his brother that from a brief examination he considered the Rand 
the finest formation he had seen in South Africa. Even Harry was 
a little excited. 

The next day Fred Struben set out to prospect the Rand. He 

[37] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

went alone to the bleak barren waste of land, carrying with him 
a few provisions, a shallow tin pan, and a rough type of pestle 
arid mortar. Thus equipped, he started scraping away at the rocks 
on the ridge, examining them, crushing them in his "dolly," and 
tramping over the veldt to a solitary stream to wash for gold. 
Here, alone, without sight of human creature, he worked the 
weeks away. Sometimes the sun beat down viciously on this lone 
figure in the heart of the wild country, and the heat, pouring down 
mercilessly from an empty sky, closed about the searcher until his 
neck and arms and back were flaming and his eyes were blinded 
with the glare. Sometimes the wind came whistling over the 
high ridge in a piercing frenzy, searching out and killing the very 
heart and spirit of the man. 

But Fred Struben worked on. The days became weeks, the 
weeks slid into months. January, February, March, April and 
still he had not found the rich fields of which he had dreamed so 
long. The confidence and certainty grew dimmer as he searched 
the very ground that Piet Marais had searched. Nothing but 
empty, fruitless rock. Crushing it, washing it. Nothing. Had 
he been wrong all the time ? Was this ridge no more than a futile 
stretch of bleak ground, put there to tear the hope out of his body 
and the faith out of his heart ? His convictions drooped like the few 
brave wild flowers on that rocky ridge drooped in the midday sun. 

May, June, July, August he found some curiously speckled 
rock high up on the ridge, and he crushed it. But there was 
nothing. No gold. He tramped slowly away. 

One morning in September the sun drew a glitter and a sparkle 
from a belt of rock lying a few paces away from Struben. He 
walked across, and the rock winked and glowed at him. Iron 
pyrites sparkled like that. Apathetically he crushed it. A rim of 
yellow appeared round the edge of the shallow iron tin. He 
poured some acid into it and boiled it* 

It was gold. 

Rich thick gold at last. He had found a reef of it four feet 
thick. He called it the "Confidence Reef." 

Fred sent word to his brother to come at once, and together the 

[38] 



THE BEGINNING 

two of them opened up Confidence Reef. Its first richness was 
astounding. A small piece of quartz yielded nearly a teaspoonful 
of gold, and it was this richness that made them keep their dis- 
covery secret until they had obtained all the options they needed. 
Fred could not keep it secret from his friend Godfray, though. 

"At last," he wrote, "I've found it at last. There will be room in 
this country for millions of capital and thousands of workers." 

Curious, that repetition of a prophecy made long before by 
Mauch. Curious, because neither of them had yet found the reef. 
But Struben was nearer the mark. He, at least, was working 
almost on top of it, even though he was unconscious of this. He, 
at least, had actually handled some of the pebbly spotted rock, 
even though he had thrown it away. 

There are no secrets in South Africa. There are too few people 
in the country, and they talk too much. It was the same then as 
it is now. The news of the Struben strike found its way into the 
village of Pretoria, where the recently appointed "State President" 
was "in residence" that is, had a tin-roofed cottage. The name 
of the new President was Stephanus Paulus Kruger, and he was 
a clever man. He had all the grim prejudice of the early trekkers 
with whom he had marched on that long road away from the 
British, but he had sense, too. So he sent one of his officials to the 
Strubens with instructions to explain the financial conditions of 
the Transvaal, and with a request that the goldfields, if they were 
goldfields, should be declared as soon as possible. 

Accordingly, in a tennis ground at the back of the local club, 
Harry Struben demonstrated the Struben discoveries before the 
President and members of the Transvaal Volksraad. 

Toward the end of that year, Godfray Lys came up to the Rand 
to join his friend Fred, and the two of them crushed away under a 
cloudless sky at Confidence Reef. It was a confidence misplaced, 
though, for the rich values of the surface dwindled away gradually, 
and the reef, so close to that unsuspected sheet of rock, began to 
pinch out. 

Kleinboy, the little native whom they took with them into the 
veldt, went on cooking roosterkoeks out of flour, salt and a little 

[39] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

baking-powder over a pile of sticks. He was unperturbed, even 
when the half-a-crown he was paid as wages every Friday was 
hastily borrowed back from him on Monday morning. 

Fred Struben looked around him, and at night, when it was 
too dark to work, the friends would sit together inside their 
flimsy tent high up on the Ridge of the White Waters, discussing 
their next move. 

Two hoboes were tramping along the dry sun-baked country of 
the Transvaal. The ground stretched round them fruitlessly, un- 
broken by any hint of civilization. Mounds of earth piled up by 
wind and storm through the centuries formed hills and kopjes, 
topped by loose boulders and pebbly rocks. Sparse stunted bushes 
clung desperately close to the ground, trying to get as far away 
from the sun as possible. The wild grass was brown and brittle 
with the dryness; the wind was hot. 

The two men scanned the horizon anxiously. There was no 
sign of life. They trudged on silently under the baking blue sky. 
It was three days since they had met with anyone. That was when 
they had come to Maritz's farm and were given food and a night's 
shelter. But nobody, nothing since then. Not even the ox-wagon 
they were praying for. The country was empty save for these two 
tired tramps. 

One of them, George Walker, was a handyman and builder* 
The other, George Harrison, was a carpenter. They had hit the 
northern trail from the Cape heading toward Barberton, where, 
it was said, there were gold and work for everyone. 

Nine hundred miles they had come, across that bare unrespon- 
sive country. Sometimes they had managed to get a lift in a pass- 
ing ox-wagon. That was what they were hoping for now. Some- 
times they were given odd jobs to do at the farmsteads they passed 
on the way. Then they would stay two 6r three days before 
shouldering their packs and setting out again into the roadless, 
untracked country. Nine hundred miles of lifeless land, over 
high hills, across flat burning plains, always moving toward an 
empty horizon. 

[40] 



THE BEGINNING 

The ox-wagon did not come. They climbed laboriously up a 
ridge, and when they reached the crest they saw something which 
made them quicken their tired steps. They saw a little white 
tent, and then two men, 

Fred Struben and Godfray Lys were crushing rock in their new 
five-stamp battery which Harry had just imported from England. 
They were wondering, as they worked together, if they could last 
out until Fred had found the rich strike about which he talked so 
much and so confidently. 

The hoboes came up and saluted the two young prospectors. 
They asked a little anxiously if there was any work for them to do 
here. Godfray had already answered "No" when Fred called the 
two artisans back. 

They could build him a house here. He was tired of living in 
a tent. It must be a small house, and not expensive. It was a 
surprising thing for this young man to do. Confidence Reef was 
thinning out, and he had not yet struck a new deposit, but he 
was ordering a shack to be built for him here on a lonely ridge 
miles away from anybody. It was a sort of gesture of faith in his 
own predictions, a sort of symbol to the outer world that Struben 
stood firm and unshaken on the Witte Waters Rand. 

The four men worked side by side each at his own job. But the 
two builders were more interested in the crushing for gold than 
the prospectors were in house-building. 

The shack was completed, and there was nothing more for 
Walker and Harrison to do. Fred suggested that they should 
go across to the adjoining farm, where the Widow Oosthuizen 
needed some builders. The name of the farm, he said, was 
Langlaagte. 

Now, the Widow Oosthuizen was a large spreading woman 
with a pale face and a good nature. Her husband had come to 
the land across the Vaal with the Great Trek; he had moved out 
to the Witte Waters Rand with his few head of cattle, and after 
walking round the country until he was tired enough to proclaim 
a boundary, he had settled down in the middle as the owner of the 
farm Langlaagte. When he died, the widow became the owner 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

of this large stretch of stubbly country with its few head of mangy 
cattle and a farmstead. Most of the year round she lived by her- 
self, growing her mealies and grinding her own rough flour, 
but just now she had her nephew, George Honeyball, staying with 
her. 

The Widow Oosthuizen was not quite sure whether she wanted 
a cottage built or not. She had been playing happily with the idea 
for months, but had never been able to force herself to a decision. 
When, however, the two tramps appeared and asked for work, 
and particularly when they told her they were very hungry, the 
good-hearted creature agreed at once to let them start building. 

Her nephew, George, who for some extraordinary reason had 
set himself up in the heart of this country wilderness as a black- 
smith, temporarily forsook his non-existent business to help with 
the carpentry of the new house. Despite this, the job was soon 
finished, and once again the brother hoboes were obliged to move 
on. They decided on Sunday afternoon to move off toward Bar- 
berton early on Monday morning. White Honeyball and Har- 
rison were criticizing each other's building achievements, and 
while the Widow Oosthuizen busied herself in the kitchen, 
George Walker went for a short stroll. He wandered away from 
the farmstead across the flat open ground toward a slight hump in 
the ground. The grass beneath his feet was thick and knotted. 
He walked disconsolately. He did not look forward to the long 
trail before him. He had had enough of trekking. He had been 
comfortable and happy at Langlaagte, and the Widow Oosthuizen 
had fed him well. But there was no reasonable excuse for staying 
here, now that the cottage was finished. And, in any case, there 
might be some soft jobs going at Barberton 

He stopped thinking like this quite suddenly, because his head 
was nearly jerked off his shoulders as he tripped over the thick 
matted grass. He was as irritated by this as an old gentleman who 
has been sent sprawling by a piece of string and a schoolboy. 
Unlike an old gentleman, George Walker turned to kick. At his 
feet lay a piece of rock almost hidden by the long grass. It glittered 
in the sun. He stooped to pick it up. 

[42] 



THE BEGINNING 

It was at this precise moment in the year of 1886, that the great 
gold-bearing reef of the Witwatersrand was discovered. 

George Walker, handyman and builder, hobo and tramp, held 
the secret of the vast goldfields of Africa in the palm of his right 
hand. 



[43] 



CHAPTER n 

THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

GEORGE WALKER SWORE SOLEMNLY TO HIMSELF TO KEEP HIS DIS- 

covery a secret. He knew, from what he had learned at the 
Struben Camp, that the rock he held in his hand was gold-bearing, 
and he believed it was the outcrop of a new reef. He told himself 
on that cloudless Sunday morning that here was his chance to 
make money. He must be shrewd and astute, though, and at all 
costs he must keep his mouth shut firmly. 

He put the piece of rock in his coat pocket and started back 
toward the low white-washed farmhouse. In the kitchen the 
Widow Oosthuizen was busying herself with a bowl of flour. 
Her fat fingers were made grotesque and enormous by the 
glutinous white dough which clung in sticky peaks and furrows 
round her hands. Her voluminous rusty black dress was streaked 
with white where the flour had escaped over the side of the basin. 
Her sunbonnet, which she wore at all hours of the day, through 
storm or twilight evening, sat rakishly on one side of her head. 
She glanced up when Walker came in, smiled at him good- 
naturedly, and went on kneading. 

In the bare unfurnished living room, Honeyball and Harrison 
were still talking. Harrison was sharpening a length of green 
stick with a rusty clasp-knife. Honeyball was telling him how a 
horse should be shod. Walker came in from the kitchen and sat 
down on a rickety chair in the corner. Neither of the two men 
paid any attention to him, for Honeyball was engrossed in his 
horses, Harrison in his stick. 

Walker tried to appear as casual as these two men looked, but 
his hands were restless, and he kept crossing and uncrossing his 
legs. His right-hand pocket bulged and sagged with a heavy 
weight; his eyes were bright and his face was flushed He was 

[44] 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

strangely excited. He thought how curious it was that here he 
sat with a great golden secret in his pocket, and nobody was taking 
the slightest notice of him. These two men were talking calmly 
and monotonously about stupid things that did not matter, while 
he had made a discovery that would make them jump to their 
feet very quickly if they knew. But they must not know. He 
must keep this a secret. 

George Walker was the Adam of Prospectors Who Meant to 
Keep Silent. 

He went back to the kitchen to talk to the Widow Oosthuizen. 

"I think," he said nonchalantly, leaning against the table, "I 
think I should like to prospect on Langlaagte." 

The Widow Oosthuizen wiped a hand across her hot face. 

"What for?" she asked. 

"Oh!" said Walker, waving a hand airily, "for minerals copper 
and tin, or perhaps coal. I might even find gold, you know." 

"Gold on Langlaagte? You must be mad. There is no gold 
here. You had better go to the eastern side of the Transvaal if 
you want to find gold. They tell me there is plenty there. But 
here on Langlaagte! It is mad." 

"Yes, perhaps you are right," said Walker casually; "but still, I 
wouldn't mind having a look. How much do you want for an 
option on your farm?" 

The Widow Oosthuizen went on with her kitchen work. It 
was important that her mealie cakes should not be burned. She 
could not allow this man Walker to interrupt her cooking. Be- 
sides, he was talking like a fool. Gold on Langlaagte! Ridiculous! 
Her husband, all the years he had lived on the farm, had never 
talked about finding gold. And now this handyman had come 
along with all his modern ideas from the Cape. He was even 
talking about options now. Where would he get the money to 
buy an option? Ridiculous! He must have a touch of the sun, 
poor fellow! 

"How much would you want?" said Walker patiently, as his 
fingers wandered unconsciously to close round a piece of rock in 
his right-hand pocket, 

[45] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

The Widow Oosthuizen wanted to get on with her rooster- 
koeks. She wanted to put a polite end to this fantastic conversa- 
tion, and so she thought of the largest possible sum of money to 
frighten Walker away. 

"Thirty pounds/' she said firmly, and got up from her stool in 
a movement of finality. 

Walker was surprised a little, but not frightened. He thanked 
the widow gravely, and mentioned that he intended to set off that 
afternoon for Potchefstroom to raise the money. The widow's 
reply to this was unintelligible, for her head was already half-way 
in the baking oven, with the roosterkoeks. 

George Walker wandered back to the living room. Honeyball 
had left the horses and was talking about sheep. Harrison was 
sharpening a thin strip of wood to use as a toothpick. Their ap- 
parent indifference irritated Walker. He wanted to be congratu- 
lated and interrogated. He wanted to be fussed over and fawned 
upon. He wanted to be the center of attention. He stood motion- 
less in the middle of the room. His hand crept again to his pocket. 

George Walker was the Adam of Prospectors Who Meant to 
Keep Silent but Couldn't. 

"I have struck gold on this farm," he said simply. 

Harrison continued to prepare the toothpick. 

"I have an option on the farm, and I'm going into Potchefstroom 
this afternoon to raise the money." 

Harrison looked up gloomily. 

"I don't suppose it's payable," he said. 

But Honeyball was very interested. He wanted to know where 
the strike had been made, how it had been made and what it was 
worth. Walker, flattered by this enthusiasm, offered to conduct a 
tour of examination, and he led Honeyball and Harrison out of 
the farmhouse across the stubbly veldt to the spot he had marked 
earlier in the day. 

"It looks like iron pyrites to me," said Harrison. 

That afternoon George Walker set off to walk the eighty miles 
that lay between Langlaagte and Potchefstroom. His eyes scanned 
the horizon anxiously for an ox-wagon. 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

George Honeyball hung about his aunt's farm for two or three 
days considering what steps he should take in connection with 
Walker's discovery. There was opportunity here for him, he 
thought, if only he could find the way to grasp it. The first thing 
to be done, he decided, was to make certain that the discovery was 
genuine, so he set off across the veldt to seek the advice of Fred 
Struben. Now, Struben was not there when Honeyball arrived 
at the camp, but he found Godfray Lys standing dejectedly in front 
of the small battery. He chatted pleasantly for a few minutes 
before producing his sample of speckled rock. Then he asked Lys 
to ascertain for him whether the sparkle was due to pyrites or gold. 
Godfray took the rock, crushed it very fine, amalgamated it with 
mercury, and then put it into an iron ladle on their blacksmith's 
forge. Presently a little button of gold appeared. Lys was inter- 
ested very interested indeed. He questioned Honeyball carefully 
and amiably, and when he had learned the story of Walker's dis- 
covery, he offered to ride over to Langlaagte to inspect the reef. 
Honeyball was naively grateful. 

Among other options that the Strubens had negotiated for from 
time to time in the district was an option on the Langlaagte farm. 
But they had allowed this to lapse. 

When Godfray Lys returned to the camp that night he had a 
remarkable story to tell. Walker's Reef, he said, was rich in 
gold, and the outcrop continued as far as the eye could see. The 
Reef consisted of a speckled conglomerate ore which carried heavy 
loads of visible gold in many places. 

Fred was astounded. 

"By God," he said, "this is what I have been looking for all 
along." 

Harry Struben, who had come over to visit the camp, thought 
rapidly. He decided that no time must be lost, and that the Widow 
Oosthuizen must be made to sign a preliminary option on the 
farm without deky. He called Kleinboy to bring him his horse, 
and he set off at once on a business visit to Langlaagte. 

But the Widow Oosthuizen had another and more "determined 
visitor under her roof when Harry Struben arrived. 

[47] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

When the Kimberley coach drew up before the hotel at 
Potchefstroom, several diamond kings alighted to stretch their 
legs and have a drink. They were on their way to Barberton to 
investigate the possibilities of putting their diamond-earned money 
into gold-earning propositions. Among them was a man called 
Joseph Robinson, who had already made a small fortune in 
Kimberley. 

In the local bar the coach passengers, having received a good 
education on the diamond diggings, drank freely, talked sparingly 
and listened intently. The barman was talking in Dutch to a 
friend who had had too much to drink. The barman was explain- 
ing that some tramp had come into Potchefstroom to raise money 
on a gold reef which he said he had discovered over on the Widow 
Oosthuizen's farm at Langlaagte. The barman did not think 
much of this cock-and-bull story, nor, he added, did the rest of 
Potchefstroom, People were always claiming to have discovered 
gold nowadays, and it was a menace to law-abiding people to allow 
these thieves, with their false reports and lies, to persuade innocent 
men to part with money. Sheer robbery, it was. 

The coach horn sounded loudly in the street, the passengers 
gulped down their drinks and walked out. But when the 
Kimberley-Barberton coach was rumbling on its way there was 
one empty seat. Joseph Robinson was already on his way to 
Langlaagte. 

Now, the Widow Oosthuizen was a very hospitable creature, 
and Joseph Benjamin Robinson was a fine-looking young man. 
She invited him to spend the night under her humble roof, and 
he accepted very charmingly. The next morning at sunrise he 
went for a walk. It was some little time before he found the 
outcrop of the reef, but when he did, he traced it for miles along 
the ground. That night Robinson started, in a tactful, round- 
about way, to talk business to the widow. The next night Harry 
Struben called to talk business, and the widow began to think 
things out. This was the third man in a week who wanted her 
farm, so there must be gold. Very well, if there was gold on 
Langlaagte, they must pay for it, and pay highly. 

[48] 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

"Fm sorry I can't talk business to you tonight," said the widow 
to Harry Struben, "for I have people here who are making me a 
very good offer. I will let you know later." 

Robinson stayed at Langlaagte for one week, two weeks, a 
month. All day long he spent examining Walker's Reef, and at 
night he talked to the widow in the bare living room at Langlaagte. 
Just exactly what Robinson said during those long summer eve- 
nings has never been told. But the Widow Oosthuizen signed a 
paper one night giving J. B. Robinson the option on her farm with 
the right to purchase it for the sum of six thousand pounds. 

Along the road between Potchef stroom and Langlaagte, George 
Walker trudged wearily. His pockets were empty. He had been 
unable to raise thirty pounds. 

The news of Robinson's deal on the Witwatersrand spread 
quickly to Kimberley, the financial hub of South Africa. He was 
known among his hard-bitten business confederates as a shrewd 
man, and any venture which bore the name of J. B. Robinson was 
worthy of attention. The news spread, too, along the bleak farms 
of the Rand. But here Robinson was credited not with acumen, 
but with lunacy. The old Boer farmers chuckled among them- 
selves as they related how some "rooinek" from Kimberley had 
been tricked by the Widow Oosthuizen into paying six thousand 
pounds for a cabbage-patch and not a very good cabbage-patch 
at that. It was so mad that it was funny. They roared with 
laughter. But there was an occasional note of envy from some of 
them. Old Gert du Plessis, for example. He had been trying to 
sell his farm for a span of fourteen oxen for months without find- 
ing a buyer, and Jan du Toit, less exacting in his demands, had 
given out that he was willing to consider any reasonable offer a 
gun, for instance, or a good milking-cow. But no; the rooinek 
had paid six thousand pounds for a piece of scrubby ground, while 
they had the misfortune still to be in possession of their fine lands 
where the grazing was good if one could afford the cattle to put 
out to feed. 

Gert du Plessis, and his partner, Japie de Villiers, were not en- 

[49] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

vious of the Widow Oosthuizen for long, because Robinson had 
traced the Reef through their property, and had determined to 
have this land. First he bought a half -share in the property for 
one thousand pounds and then, shortly afterward, he bought the 
other half for twelve thousand pounds. The two old Boers could 
scarcely believe it. Japie de Villiers was terrified that some accident 
would befall this madman before the deal could be put through, 
and he rushed about after Robinson like a Mayf air mother after a 
debutante daughter. Gert du Plessis sat at home in a dream heaven 
of delight, planning delicious schemes planning to buy himself 
a new cart, and one of those newfangled stoves for Maria, and, if 
the money would run to it, perhaps a new suit of clothes. 

When the day of reckoning came, the two old Boers were wait- 
ing at their farmstead in a fever of anxiety. Robinson arrived on 
time with the money in golden sovereigns. The three men sat 
around the big bare table in the living room, and Robinson begati 
to count the money out in piles of a hundred sovereigns. Japie de 
Villiers could follow up to one hundred with ease. After that 
he began to get muddled. Gert was muddled from the beginning 
and all the time. When Robinson tried to explain that sixty piles 
of gold each containing a hundred sovereigns made six thousand 
pounds both farmers were quite bewildered. They rose and 
walked round the table to look at the money from a different angle, 
they called the womenfolk in, and walked round again. Then 
Japie sat down to count it for himself. He counted up to a hundred 
easily. He counted up to a hundred sixty times, but after that he 
was defeated. He lapsed into a heavy silence, his eyes staring un- 
blinkingly at the piles of gold. The silence threatened to extend 
itself indefinitely. Robinson started all over again to explain. It 
was only the whispered encouragement of Maria, who knew noth- 
ing whatever about addition but who was acutely desirous of 
possessing a stove, that brought the deal to a satisfactory close. 

In the meantime, in Kimberley, an enterprising broker had 
given a public panning of the Rand conglomerate, and in so doing 
he had inoculated the diamond diggers with a germ of gold fever 
which spread like the plague. For two or three days men talked 

[50] 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

of nothing else but the gold of the Transvaal. They huddled 
together in groups over the counters of the local pubs, they leaned 
against billiard tables, oblivious of the game in progress, to talk 
about gold. They stood in groups at the corners of the dusty un- 
laid streets and gathered together in little tin offices. 

And then they began to move off, in ox-wagons, Scotch carts, 
and gigs; out of Kimberley across the open veldt toward the 
Rand, in search of gold. 

The outskirts of this mining camp were alive with moving 
carts, all heading in the one direction. The coaches that plied be- 
tween Kimberley and Barberton were now jammed tight with 
the more prosperous bodies of diamond magnates, for the men 
who had made money out of diamonds were anxious to make 
more out of gold. Rich men, poor men, fat men, thin men, little 
men, big men, poured out of the town, until the Mayor of Kimber- 
ley began to wonder whether he, alone, would be left to rule an 
empty town. 

He attempted dutifully to stem the tide, but the imagination of 
his borough had been stirred as thoroughly as a Christmas pud- 
ding, and they heeded not the alleged municipal wisdom. They 
left Kimberley in any sort of vehicle that seemed likely to move. 
Old rickety wagons were tied up with pieces of wire and string 
and then pronounced road-worthy. Disused carts were brought 
out of the rubbish yards, and a nail was knocked in here and there 
as a slight precaution against dismemberment in the streets of the 
town, and the carts were set on their hazardous journey to the 
Rand. Two ambitious young men rode off in a hansom-cab. 

Despite the Mayor's uneasiness, and the general exodus from the 
town, quite a large number of people remained behind, including 
most of the shrewdest of the diamond kings. They were skeptical. 
They did not believe the sensational reports that had come from 
the Rand. The formation and construction of the conglomerate 
beds in which the gold was reported to lie were unknown geolog- 
ically. It was something quite new, and they believed that even 
if the gold were to occur in this formation, it would peter out at a 
hundred feet. It was wiser, thought the kings of Kimberley, to 

[51] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

have diamonds in the hand than gold in the bush. But the re- 
ports of the richness of the Rand persisted, and began to wear 
down this self-confidence. One or two of the financiers began to 
wonder whether they were not missing a good proposition in the 
Transvaal. Finally the local representatives of Rothschilds sent an 
expert up to the Rand to survey the lie of the land and to report 
on its possibilities. Kimberley waited for his return anxiously. 
He was not away long. 

'Well?" said everyone eagerly. 

'Well," said the expert, "there is not a pennyworth of payable 
gold on the Rand." He was very expert and very emphatic. 

"Ah/' said everyone who had been left behind. "Ah/* they 
added in a pleased tone; "a Rotten Reef, eh?" 

From then onward, and for quite a long time, the Witwaters- 
rand was known as the "Rotten Reef." 

The first wagons to top the Ridge of the White Waters stood 
for a moment above the wide plain stretching away to the north. 
The smoke from an occasional farmhouse somewhere on the far 
horizon smudged the clear sky. The wagons moved slowly 
down on to the plains. Presently a white tent was pegged. And 
then another appeared in a little cone of white against the red 
ground; and then another. In a week the Rand was dotted with 
the canvas coverings of its new citizens. 

When Robinson made his deal with the Widow Oosthuizen 
there were but a handful of men spread along the Rand, Two 
weeks after there were five hundred. A month later there were 
two thousand people. In four months there were six thousand 
people living on the Rand. They came from every corner of the 
country. They included every type of man. Young men with 
fluffy chins lay down to sleep with heavy-bearded prospectors 
from Barberton. Jew shared his meal with Gentile; and an un- 
washed Boer farmer tried patiently to converse with the son of 
an English peer. It was any man's country, this barren stretch 
of ground, and it was governed, not with a rod of iron, but with a 
strip of gold. 

At first the diggers formed themselves into little groups, or 

[52] 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

camps, with small regard for symmetry, layout or hygiene. Their 
primary interest was to obtain good rich claims along the Reef, 
and in order to do this, they had to get prospecting rights from the 
individual owners of the farms. 

Paul Kruger, sitting on the veranda of his house in Pretoria, was 
worried and anxious. The one event which he had always feared 
was now occurring under his very nose, and he was powerless to 
prevent it. Foreigners were streaming across the borders of the 
Transvaal in great hordes. From the Cape, from Kimberley, 
from Natal, and now they were beginning to arrive from England, 
Australia and California. His beloved people would be out- 
numbered and outwitted by these clever foxy foreigners. They 
would be swamped by these Uitlanders, and the freedom of their 
forefathers would be forfeited, unless he was more clever than 
they. Unless the President made this vast new people dance to the 
tune he called. Paul Kruger, impassive, grim and wise, sat silently 
smoking on his stoep. 

All along the Rand now, diggers and prospectors were talking 
business to the simple Boer fanners, endeavoring to get prospect- 
ing rights from these men of mushroom wisdom and newborn 
shrewdness. Fortunately, the Mining Commissioner who had 
recently been appointed by the Volksraad was amenable to the 
particular form of reason put forward by the prospectors, and he 
influenced Kruger to grant mining rights, battery sites and water 
rights to the diggers. There was room for everybody along the 
fifty miles of the Reef, and each man pegged out areas for himself. 
The Government announced that, in order to avoid a rush, they 
would throw open only one area at a time for pegging. 

Colonel Ferreira, working at the Booysens end of the Reef, 
pegged the Ferreira Mine, which proved a rich proposition. Charl- 
ton worked in with Jan Meyer, and pegged the Meyer and Charl- 
ton, another rich mine. Sam Wemmer pegged the Wemmer 
Mine, but, like George Walker, all these men were to die later in 
miserable poverty. 

Now though, in the year 1886, they were young, hopeful and 
enthusiastic. The old Boer farmers watched the activity on the 

[53] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

Rand with wide-eyed interest. Some of them understood vaguely 
what was happening. Others, determined to be shrewd, were 
easily outwitted by unscrupulousness. Piet, for example. He was 
selling the prospecting rights of his farm for only one hundred 
pounds, and was chatting away merrily about his cattle to the 
thin eager negotiator. There was a pile of money on the table. 

"How old is your wife?" the digger interrupted the old Boer's 
talk. 

"Forty," said Piet. 

"Oh, really, forty. Forty-one, forty-two, forty-three, forty- 
four " said the digger, counting out the money. 

It was not always the same, of course. Straightforward busi- 
ness was practiced nine times out of ten. It was just that tenth 
time, inspired by the theme song of the mining camp which came 
rumbling down from the hills. 

"My son, make money. Honestly, if you can; but make it." 

The echoes of these words can still be heard very faintly on the 
Rand. 

It was in September, 1886, that Paul Kruger proclaimed that a 
township would be marked off on the Ridge, and would hence- 
forth be known as Johannesburg. 

The announcement did not greatly interest the diggers, for it 
was generally held that the life of the Rand could not possibly be 
more than five years, and that this was a generous estimate. At 
first they did not even bother to put up tin shanties. Those who 
had not the good fortune to possess tents made themselves mud 
huts, and went to sleep every night with an open umbrella over 
their heads. Their caution was justifiable; very often nearly 
always, in fact they woke to find that the umbrella had been most 
inefficient, and that they were not only wet, but mud-bound, for 
the heavy Transvaal rains made pies of their plans. This was 
not important. An hour in the strong morning sun would dry 
their sticky wet clothes, and a new hut did not take long to build. 
During the day they would work on their claims, digging the 
reef up out of the ground as a workman digs up the earth before 
laying foundations, or as a dog digs up a bone. 

[54] 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

The Reef began to appear as a long series of holes in the ground. 
It was fabulously rich near the surface, and they crushed it as best 
they could. But they could not catch more than half the gold 
the other half was washed away in the tailings. Still, they did not 
care. Half a loaf, when it was a golden loaf, was certainly better 
than no bread. At night they sat around on the veldt, eating food 
out of tins, and telling bawdy stories. And then there would be 
poker and faro; for it was surprising how many of the diggers who 
had forgotten to bring pajamas and toothbrushes had remembered 
to bring a pack of cards. 

So the days on the Rand wore on, and the number of tents and 
mud huts grew bigger and bigger, until Johannesburg was a vast 
campus of bearded, unwashed, unsavory men with gold dust in 
their pockets. 

Gradually the wagons which had brought prospectors up to the 
Rand began to carry cases of whisky instead, and enterprising 
tradesmen opened up business on the fields. There was a chemist 
shop in a tent, a boarding-house, a breadshop and seventy-two 
pubs. Even this was not enough, for the drinking-saloons were 
always jammed tight with miners who would bring in bags of 
gold dust and drink them empty. Following the gold and the 
whisky, of course, came prostitutes. And then, indeed, Johannes- 
burg was a town. Men went into the drinking-hells to get drunk 
and came outside to do murder. 

A place called the Brickfields was a popular place for murder, 
and it became the fashion for men to ride out to these fields at 
about midnight and take pot-shots at anything they saw moving 
in the dark. It was a most successful game, for in less than a 
month more than a dozen people were murdered there. Then 
the sport grew wearisome, and an ambitious storekeeper supplied 
a new craze. He began to sell knuckle-dusters. He was law- 
abiding enough, though, to offer them first to the ten policemen 
in the town, but when they refused to acknowledge him, he felt 
at liberty to sell his stocks to the general public. Knuckle-dusting 
proved very popular, and his stocks were soon exhausted. 

The open square of ground in the middle of Johannesburg 

[55] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

where the farmers sold their produce in the morning was unsafe 
after dark. Drunken revelers on their way home were always 
tripping over dead bodies. They seldom bothered to see who it 
was, but the morning light would show that somebody had been 
disemboweled with a razor, or perhaps garroted, or stabbed. 

Murder was everybody's game when they were drunk or 
quarrelsome. The newspapers, recently established, were hard- 
ened enough to dismiss such occurrences under a single compla- 
cent headline "Last Night's Murders." The ten policemen 
dressed up in canary cord suiting looked like chorus-boys in a 
provincial revue, and were just about as effective. There was 
plenty for them to do, but very little reason why they should do 
it, because any effort on their part to arrest miscreants was set at 
nought by the unusual fragility of the local prison walls. 

The jail was built of a few stones, a great deal of mud and 
some sticks. It was always packed with prisoners undergoing 
sentence for robbery, murder, forgery, and so on, but the inmates 
of the cells were exposed to greater danger from falling masonry 
than from legal reprisals. There were eight warders and a jailer, 
and they were in despair. They sat about waiting mournfully for 
a good hard rain to send the pasteboard prison tumbling to the 
ground to release the seventy-three prisoners. But the prisoners 
did not wait for rain. They were more progressive. One of them 
was literally struck with an idea when a falling stone hit him on 
the head, leaving a large gaping hole in the wall. He was just 
crawling through when a native warder saw him and hauled him 
back. The prisoner made indignant representations to the head 
jailer, stating that it had taken him twenty-five minutes to work 
the hole large enough to crawl through, and he considered that his 
sentence ought to be set aside for this display of energy. His 
petition was carefully dealt with, but, after some consideration, was 
refused. 

Very often the prisoners would range themselves in a row, and 
at a given command would dash themselves against the doors, 
bursting them down. Then they would walk calmly out. The 
more popular method of escape, however, was for the prisoners to 

[56] 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

thrust their fists through the flimsy ceiling, clamber through the 
hole made, and then bump their backs hard against the roof 
to send the galvanized iron flying off in sheets. It was simple 
after that. They would either step over the wall, or walk 
into the warders' quarters, lock the jailers up and stroll off into 
town. 

It was an Irishman who lost his temper when he was sent to 
jail. Scarcely had the key been turned on him in the cell when 
he ran his head in a frenzy against the wall. He was considerably 
surprised when this simple action brought the whole structure 
about his ears, and he was able to walk out after the warder into 
the yard. The next day another prisoner put his feet up against 
the north wall of the jail, and was astonished to find it move 
under him. Somehow he did not see the necessity for remaining 
indoors on that glorious sunny day, so he called to six comrades, 
two of whom, incidently, were condemned murderers, and to- 
gether they nonchalantly pushed the wall over and walked across 
the yard and out of the front gate. 

Those prisoners who stayed inside the jail did so more out of 
kindness than necessity. Besides, many of them found it the cheap- 
est and most comfortable way of living. The jailer, having decided 
that he would like to increase his earnings, started a board- 
ing-house inside the prison. Here he entertained warders and un- 
tried prisoners at very cheap rates. The cooking and service were 
excellent, for he ordered the native and Indian prisoners to cook 
the food and wait at table, and the boarders were highly satisfied 
with the organization placed at their disposal. There were also 
occasional entertainments for the less squeamish prisoners. One 
day, for example, the body of a native was cut up and boiled in a 
kitchen pot before a packed audience. One of the prisoners, how- 
ever, after having either escaped or been set free, wrote a letter 
about this to the Press, and a shocked cry of protest rose from the 
people of Johannesburg. The District Surgeon, in replying offi- 
cially to the charge, declared that, under the orders of the hospital 
doctor, the body of a native who had been killed in a mining 
accident, and had sustained interesting and unusual fractures, was 

[57] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

dissected, and certain parts were boiled in order to remove the 
flesh without disturbing the fractured bones. 

"This is an operation of very frequent occurrence," he reported, 
"and one always resorted to by the most eminent pathologists in 
every country and hospital in the world, and many remarkable 
discoveries which have been made are due to such post-mortem 
researches.'* The District Surgeon did not explain, however, why 
those interesting experiments were conducted in full view of the 
hospital prisoners. 

Such trifles as public dissection did not bother John McKeone a 
scrap when he thought about the prison at Johannesburg. He 
thought about prisons a great deal, for he was planning to rob 
the Krugersdorp Bank, and accidents often happened. Accidents 
such as being caught and sent to jail Not that that mattered very 
much to John Lewis McKeone. 

He was a handsome young man of twenty, with a strong stream 
of Irish blood running through his veins. He had been born in 
Basutoland, that vast wild native country, and had spent his short 
life roaming the high veldt on his horse, making friends with na- 
tives, learning their ways and their language, and learning to win 
their respect and devotion. He was a simple, good-natured young 
man, possessed by a strong affection for his family, and a feeling 
very near devotion for Brian, his black horse. 

The trouble with John McKeone, though, was that he had no 
respect whatever for rules, or laws, conventions, or creeds, and 
he had a very complete disregard for the rights of property. As 
a child he never would believe that it was wrong to steal fruit from 
a laden orchard or eggs from a rich farm. And as he grew up, 
this handsome, gay young man practiced his unrestricted ideas 
quite freely; he stole fruits and eggs when he was hungry, and 
sometimes, if one of his friends was hard-up, McKeone would 
ride off on his black horse and bring back a few sheep from some- 
where. He could not see that this was wrong. If anyone argued 
with him, he would point out that the farmer from whom he had 
taken the sheep was a very rich man, and that he could not miss 
these few animals. And so when, in the year 1887, some of his 

[58] 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

young comrades suggested a plan for robbing the Krugersdorp 
Bank, McKeone thought the idea was splendid. After all, he 
reasoned, the money was lying idle in the bank, and there were 
poor families he knew in Basutoland who could make much better 
use of it. As for being sent to prison wdl, the jail in Johannes- 
burg, he had heard, was an easy place from which to escape. 

One bright, cloudless morning, then, shortly after the Standard 
Bank had opened the doors of its Krugersdorp branch, John 
McKeone and his friend Joseph Turpend strolled quietly in, and, 
with a full sense of drama, called upon the bank officials to stand 
and deliver. Just for a moment there was silence, and then the 
clerk made a valiant dash for the side door, but he tripped on the 
threshold, and like a flash McKeone leaped upon him, gagged him 
with a cork, and fastened his hands behind his back. Hewitson, 
the manager, remembering a revolver in his bedroom adjoining 
the bank, tried to get to the door, but McKeone was too quick for 
him, and with a well-aimed blow from a riding-crop, the manager 
was knocked senseless. While Turpend stood sentry, McKeone 
gagged the manager, removed the keys from his pockets and pro- 
ceeded to rifle the safe. First he came across bags of silver, but he 
flung these aside; they were too heavy and not valuable enough. 
Then he found the notes and the gold, and took four thousand 
five hundred pounds. 

In the meantime, Dekker, the messenger of the bank, who had 
been sent out with drafts, returned to the office. Glancing casually 
through the window of the bank before opening the door, he was 
horrified to see the manager lying in a pool of blood, while two 
armed men were crouching over the safe. Dekker did not wait 
to defend his boss. He took to his heels and fled to the police 
station, to tell his story. Meanwhile, McKeone and Turpend, un- 
conscious of the fact that they had been seen, calmly gathered up 
their booty, walked out of the bank and unhitched their horses 
from the magistrate's fence. They rode at a trot out of the village, 
taking the dusty track which led to Johannesburg. 

Dekker's story to the police drew a posse of constables, and they 
galloped off at once in pursuit of the robbers, who were soon 

[59] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

glimpsed some distance ahead, casually mounting the brow of a 
hill. But the sound of flying hoofs behind him made McKeone 
turn, and when he saw that he and Turpend were being chased 
by the police, they put their horses to the gallop and left the 
officers miles behind on the dusty track. Sergeant Tossel, leading 
the police, realized that his horse was tiring, and as he drew near 
the iron shack known as the Witpoortje Hotel, he called for a 
new mount. Luck was on the side of the law that morning, for the 
racer Atlas was in the hotel stables, and although McKeone's Black 
Brian was the fastest horse in the country, he could not outstrip a 
fresh, ungalloped racer. 

Tossel knew that now the game was in his own hands. On he 
galloped in chase, past transport wagons loaded with provisions 
and machinery for Johannesburg, past farmers' carts loaded with 
produce, past Wall's Hotel, along the track to Johannesburg. 
Tossel drew nearer and nearer. Now the robbers turned off the 
road on to the open veldt, but their horses were getting blown, and 
McKeone realized that the game was over. Not quite over, 
though. He pulled Brian up sharply, dismounted, and standing 
at the side of his black horse, took careful aim and fired at the 
galloping policeman. He raised his arm to fire again, but this 
time TosseFs shot found its mark and McKeone was winged. 
The game was over now. McKeone and Turpend stood motion- 
less in the middle of the veldt waiting for the police to come up. 
Only one thing pleased McKeone about the arrest, and that was 
that he had thrown the gold away along the road. 

The next day McKeone and Turpend were sentenced by an 
angry magistrate to twenty-five years' imprisonment and were 
lodged in the Johannesburg jail. 

Unfortunately, regulations and conditions had been consider- 
ably tightened up in the Johannesburg prison when McKeone 
and Turpend arrived. But the young Irishman bided his time 
patiently, and made himself as comfortable as possible in the 
meantime. His carefree, laughing nature, his impudent, charming 
personality soon made him a firm favorite with the warders, and 
he spent many an hour telling them stories of his adventures in 

[60] 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

Basutoland. But McKeone had resolutely determined not to spend 
twenty-five years in jail. He and his fellow prisoners arranged an 
elaborate plan to overpower their German guard and make good 
their escape into the surrounding wild country. The German was 
a good fellow, but it had to be done. The night before the time 
fixed for the escape, one of the prisoners in the plot, anxious to 
win a remission of his sentence, informed the governor of the jail 
of the plan afoot. A double guard was put on duty, and McKeone 
lost the first round. 

He set about his next scheme more subtly. He and his colleagues 
decided to dig a tunnel from the floor of their cell through the 
newly strengthened prison wall, out into the yard. But the Ger- 
man warder, suspicious now, and not a little resentful that these 
convicts had planned to knock him senseless, watched McKeone 
ceaselessly, and one night he detected the plot. Thus round num- 
ber two went to the Johannesburg jail. 

The prisoners were guarded now with scrupulous attention. 
The warders never took their eyes off McKeone, and the friendly 
feelings they once harbored for him were turned to suspicion and 
anger. But the young Irishman had made one friend among the 
warders, a man named Cooper, whose admiration and loyalty for 
McKeone never waned. 

For two months McKeone conformed to the prison regulations 
as docilely as any petty thief, but during that time he managed to 
communicate, through Cooper, with his brother, and he arranged 
that Black Brian should wait in Johannesburg for him at a given 
place on the morning of March the third. 

Just before dawn on the day of escape, Cooper slipped into 
McKeone's cell with some old convict clothes and a bag of soot. 
Then, assuming the air of a conscientious warder, he stood on 
guard outside the door. McKeone hastily donned the soiled 
clothes; then he smeared the soot thickly all over his face, neck, 
arms and hands. With a friendly smile of thanks to his ally, he 
slipped outside his cell, and mingled with the native prisoners 
who were carrying out the night soil. John Lewis McKeone went 
into the garden with the gang. He carried his bucket of refuse 

[61] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

over the lawn, across the yard, through the front gates, and there 
in the shadows, his friend Cooper, the warder, stood waiting 
for him with Black Brian and a horse for himself. He had decided 
to ride for liberty with his daring young friend. And so, in 
the dawn of a March morning, two horses galloped swiftly away 
from the Johannesburg prison. Round number three was 
McKeone's. 

Soon after his escape the alarm was raised in the prison, and 
Lieutenant Heugh, the crack member of the Transvaal Mounted 
Police, gave chase. 

The two friends rode furiously for liberty. Brian galloped like 
the wind. Along the Kimberley road, through Klip River, across 
the Vaal into the Orange Free State. Mile after dusty mile. Hour 
after anxious hour. The sun was scorching, the red ground was 
hard and uneven beneath the flying hoofs of the horses. The 
flight for freedom was desperate. 

There were relays of horses posted along the road for Heugh, 
as he followed the dust of the fugitives. On and on galloped 
Black Brian, over the hot stony miles, through the hours into the 
night. But the gallant horses grew exhausted; they moved more 
and more slowly, and with each mile, Heugh, freshly mounted, 
grew closer. Now, at last, he was within a hundred yards of 
McKeone. Through the darkness the policeman imagined the 
shadowy forms of the fugitives. He clearly heard the sound of gal- 
loping hoofs. He urged his mount forward confidently, remem- 
bering the warrant for arrest in his pocket. Suddenly the sound of 
hoofs died. There was silence. Heugh dashed forward. The 
night was pitch dark. The road was empty. It stretched blankly 
before him. He looked about anxiously. There was nothing. 
The thick shrubbery on each side of the ride was still and undis- 
turbed. The minutes passed as he searched for the men who had 
been within an ace of his grasp, but they were gone. They had 
been swallowed up by the night. Disappointed and angry, Heugh 
turned his horse back along the road to Pretoria. 

In the shrubbery on one side of the dark road, Brian stood 
motionless with his rider on his back. When at last the sound of 

[62] 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

Heugh's retreating horse had faded into the horizon, the two 
friends wearily took the road again. 

But Heugh was not the only policeman searching for McKeone. 
A small army of mounted men had been detailed off to comb the 
district for him. They asked all the natives in this wild bare 
country for information about McKeone. Had they seen a young 
man on a black horse ? He had ridden this way. It would be well 
for the black men to tell the police. It would be well for them 
to show the white men where to find McKeone and his friend 
Cooper. But every Basuto, even to Mama the Chief of all Basutos, 
was a fast friend of McKeone. They had known him when he 
was a child, and had played and hunted with him in the Basuto 
hills; they had ridden with him, and he had eaten food in their 
huts. And so, the answer to the police was always, No. No, the 
black man had seen no white man pass that way. 

On Wednesday morning two of the Mounted Police sighted 
McKeone and Cooper far ahead. They spurred on after them, 
believing they would bring the fugitives to halt on the steep banks 
of the Rhenoster River. But McKeone, hearing the approach of 
horsemen, turned his head to see who followed, and when he 
distinguished the galloping police figures, he murmured a word 
of encouragement to Brian, and then urged the horse down the 
twenty-foot bank into the river. Together man and horse, de- 
voted friends, began to swim the swirling waters. Half-way 
across, McKeone turned to make sure that Cooper was following. 
The ex-warder was still on the river bank trying to persuade his 
unwilling horse to take the plunge. Nearer and nearer drew the 
police. Cooper's horse pranced nervously on the water's edge. 
Amid-stream McKeone turned Brian and swam back to the bank. 
Then, reaching out, he pulled Cooper's horse down by the bridle 
and pulled him through. And on again they went, over the 
stubble and burning veldt But now the horses were quite ex- 
hausted by fatigue. McKeone jumped down and ran behind 
Brian, holding his hand on the horse's tail. When the horse had 
recovered his wind, he vaulted back into the saddle, and away 
galloped the black animal, with Cooper riding alongside. 

[63] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

The police followed behind. One of them, having a great re- 
spect for McKeone's ingenuity, determined to put an end to this 
record ride. He raised his rifle, took careful aim and fired. 

But an instant before, McKeone had turned his head to see the 
raised arm and pointed gun. He shouted to Cooper, and simulta- 
neously the two men drew their horses apart. The bullet passed be- 
tween them. McKeone knew when he was beaten though. He 
knew it now. He pulled up his panting horse, leaped down, re- 
moved the saddle, and stood talking softly to Brian, and patting 
the horse gently while he waited for the police to draw level. 

He surrendered without any protest, but, he explained, the only 
reason he gave himself into the hands of the law was that he did 
not wish to kill his horse. He and the faithful Cooper were placed 
under arrest, and taken to the wood and iron police shack at Vaal 
River. Round number four went to the police. 

McKeone seemed quite resigned and cheerful, and made not 
the slightest attempt to escape. Their captors were placed on 
guard over the men during the night. But the two officers who 
had chased the fugitives for nearly ten hours across the burning 
veldt could not keep awake. They were exhausted. They awoke 
with the dawn to find that McKeone and Cooper had escaped 
during the night. McKeone had left his much-loved Brian well 
stabled in the police barracks, while he and Cooper made their 
way on foot across the country in the direction of Mama's native 
village. Round five to the Irishman. 

Toward the end of March, McKeone and Cooper arrived, 
footsore and weary, at the little settlement of native huts in the 
Basutoland hills. Here, among their black-skinned friends, they 
were safe. But it was here, in the remote wilderness of the country, 
that McKeone stumbled across a tragedy which stirred him more 
deeply than any experience he had yet suffered. Despite his 
contempt for convention, and his disregard for the rules of society, 
the comedy became drama when the play was acted in his own 
back yard. 

It was here, in Mama's village, that McKeone learned that his 
sister Martha had married the native Chief Jonathan. All thoughts 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

of precaution left him, as he sat down to write to his brother in 
Krugersdorp of the disaster that had befallen his family. 

"I have seen Martha/' he wrote, "She is living with the 
native chief Jonathan. Break the news gently to Mother. I 
have tried to persuade her to go home, but it is useless; she re- 
fuses. I enclose a letter from her to me, so you can judge how 
matters stand. It is an awful scandal, and as far as I can find 
out, she is to blame. Anyhow, do not judge her too rashly 
yet it is an awful thing. 

"And I firmly believe she is not in her right senses. But, 
Bernard, cheer Mother up; stand by her in all her trials, and 
get yourself in no trouble, for, God knows, her trials arc 
great. Yet she has been the best of mothers to us all nothing 
that has happened is like the present affair of Martha's. 
Fancy your sister being the wife of a native chief! What has 
induced her to such a purpose I know not, for he is far 
from being a good-looking native. His wealth must have 
been the object. She is making her own bed and will have to 
lie on it, for I do not see that Jonathan is to blame. A man 
must receive some encouragement from a woman. I say she 
is to blame, although, of course, the priests or nuns might 
have tried to stop matters as soon as their suspicions were 
aroused. But now it is clear they did not. I cannot relish her 
taste or choice, but she fancies she knows best She is deter- 
mined in her choice " 

The letter he enclosed from Martha was written from the native 
village Tsikiam. 

"I cannot make up my mind to leave here," she wrote. "I 
feel too much attached to Jonathan now; you must not say I 
am selfish, for really I cannot help it. Perhaps in one or two 
years' time I might be disgusted with this quiet and lonely sort 
of life, but I doubt it. I am now so used to it that I feel it hard 
to change. 

"Oh, my brother, I know that, as you said to me, this will 

[65] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

be a cause of sorrow to you all; but what can I do? I cannot 
for an instant think of leaving; therefore I can only say, for- 
give me for the pain I cause you, and then forget me alto- 
gether. God knows where I will end " 

While he was writing letters, McKeone thought he might as 
well write to the State Secretary of the Volksraad at Pretoria, and 
come to some business arrangement with the authorities. So he 
took a dean sheet of paper, addressed it, "Whereabouts, Anony- 
mous, April ist, 1890," and proceeded to put his case to the 
authorities. 

"Sir," he wrote, "this is to inform you that I, the undersigned, 
a prisoner at large, seek to come to terms of peace with the 
Government of the South African Republic. It is clear up to 
the present I have proved myself up to the mark. So I would 
ask your Government to consider that I have committed 
myself but once in your State, and up to that time bore a good 
character. I also ask you to notice the manner my crime was 
done in. Was there any want of manliness ? Again, I would 
ask, how is it that most men that have had a hand in arresting 
me regret their share in so doing, almost as soon as they come 
to know me? Now, once I am out of your State, why not 
leave me in peace, providing I bind myself never to enter the 
South African Republic again? For, bear in mind, if I am to 
be hunted about everywhere, and am ever to be on the alert for 
fear of capture, I might as well retaliate, for if I cannot settle 
down, it stands to reason that it would be as well for me to re- 
turn to your State and commit a series of crimes, if for nothing 
else but to be avenged and get a notorious name. 

"But such is not my ambition, and thus I ask you to consider 
that any man is liable to make a false step. But why, for one 
false step, is a man to be punished all his life ? Is it not better 
to give him an opportunity to reform and is it likely that 
twenty-five years imprisonment can reform a man ? 

"So I ask you kindly to consider my case well, and will await 
and expect an answer through the Government Gazette with- 
in twenty-four days. Should your Council coine to the con- 

[66] 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

elusion of leaving me in peace, I would beg you to consider 
the case of my companion, Joseph Richard Turpend " 

Having made what he considered a fair and reasonable offer to 
the Volksraad, John Lewis McKeone waited for their reply. 

But the letter he had written to his family telling them of his 
whereabouts fell into the hands of the authorities, and the last 
round went to the police. He was arrested one bright morning as 
he strolled through the little native village in Basutoland. He was 
taken to the prison at Pretoria and was put in chains. He never 
escaped again. 

It was a knockout round. 

In the meantime, Johannesburg was rapidly changing from a 
settlement of white tents into a town of wood and iron buildings. 
The single store where everyone gathered to hear the news and 
to buy or sell claims was challenged by other tradesmen, who 
brought goods up by wagon from Capetown and Durban and sold 
them at their own prices on the fields. The open-air auctioneers 
who sold anything from a pair of trousers to a silver mug, or a 
pitcher of drinking water, were forced by competition to pack up 
their trestles and move off the streets into the more refined, but less 
profitable privacy of four walls. 

The Post Office, which began its operations on the fields by 
employing a weekly runner between Johannesburg and Pretoria, 
extended its contacts with the outside world by negotiating agree- 
ments with the transport services running wagons to Natal and 
the Cape. Gone were the days, very soon, when a digger would 
stand all morning before the Post Office tent while the Postmaster 
shouted out in alphabetical order the names of all those for whom 
there were letters. 

Johannesburg had passed the kindergarten stage, and had 
reached standard one. All over the country, especially in Kim- 
berley, vast sums of money were being subscribed to exploit the 
Reef. The shroud of suspicion that had draped the stability of the 
Rand was lifted at one corner, and money was poured into 

[67] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

schemes for the development of properties on which, in many cases, 
there was no reasonable prospect of finding a shilling's worth of 
gold. The mere mention of the Rand was enough to loose the 
purse strings of the most cautious, and to open wide the banking 
accounts of the adventurous. Here indeed was a rich harvest for 
unscrupulous promoters, and they reaped the unguarded crops 
eagerly. Within two years no less than four hundred and fifty 
mining companies were formed. The assets of the bulk of these 
companies were, apart from other people's money, a sort of mis- 
chievous hope that all they had said on their prospectus might 
come true. 

It very seldom did, and many an unhappy subscriber slipped 
back into the habit of referring to the Witwatersrand as "Rotten 
Reef." The consequent slump called forth a stern letter from 
Ralph Charles Williams, Queen Victoria's agent at Pretoria. 

"Up to the present," he wrote, "your valuable mines have 
existed in great part on speculative hopes on promotion 
schemes and on the bulling and bearing of mining properties 
and land companies; with the result that public expectations 
have been unfulfilled. A legitimate statement of the actual 
resources of the great companies, and a wholesome exposure 
of the gross frauds so plausibly imposed upon the public, 
whether in mining or land schemes, a lesser promotion and a 
greater production, can alone re-establish the Transvaal mines 
in the minds of the investing public." 

But the real gold-mining companies went on working quietly 
and steadily. They went on crushing the rich ore with their 
crude machinery, and they went on losing half the gold. With 
the other half they imported more machinery, and it was delivered 
from the ports in small pieces on ox-wagons. They went on puz- 
zling over the lie of the Reef, which dipped enigmatically away 
from their drills, and they went on wondering whether the Reef 
could possibly go as far down as a thousand feet 

Sam Wemmer lost the Reef on his mine, and could not trace it 
again. He was desperate, for he had not the money to pay his 

[68] 



THE GRAIN SPROUTS 

license fees. He went forlornly to his property to close it up, and 
that morning, quite by accident, he struck the Reef again. He 
sold his property soon after to the Wemmer Mine Company for 
eighty thousand pounds. 

A little band of prospectors, searching for gold, found coal 
instead, and soon long lines of carts carried fuel to the Rand. All 
along the Reef the holes made for gold grew bigger and deeper. 
But it was not easy to carry on. Each month brought a fresh prob- 
lem to the industry, a problem which always seemed insuperable 
to those brawny, sunburned men who at first knew so little about 
mining. 

They couldn't get machinery up to the Witwatersrand; they 
couldn't persuade the natives to work on the mines; they couldn't 
get water; they couldn't catch the gold; they couldn't trace the 
continuation of the Reef. But they went on trying. 

And every night they forgot their troubles in the town, where 
there were ratting matches and dance-halls, boxing bouts, and 
always enough whisky even though the population had jumped to 
twenty-five thousand people. There was a lottery, and a circus, 
and Luscombe Searelle brought a theatrical company and all its 
props in ox-wagons to Johannesburg and opened his program with 
East Lynnc in a wood and iron building. After the first night he 
spent most of his time trying to stop his actresses eloping with 
the miners. 

When, in the summer, there was a severe drought and water 
faming, those who had spent all their money in the bars went 
about dirty, while those who could afford to be clean had soda- 
water baths. 

The noise of hammering and banging grew to be a permanent 
symphony of the dusty streets, as workmen put up buildings 
overnight for the people of Johannesburg. 

And away over the hills in Pretoria, President Kruger sat on 
his stoep, smoking his pipe, and catching the sounds of progress 
from the still warm air. 



[69] 



CHAPTER in 

OF THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE, 
AGAINST THE PEOPLE 

A LOW WHITE-WASHED HOUSE WITH A THATCHED ROOF, IN THE MARKET 

Square of Pretoria, housed the Parliament of the South African 
Republic. It was from here that Johannesburg and the goldfields 
and all the land across the Vaal were governed. Each morning at 
nine o'clock a little boy in ragged trousers would hoist the flag of 
the country at the corner of the pavement a flag of red, white 
and blue with a broad emerald-green stripe running down the 
side. The bell would ring, and the representatives of the people, 
dressed sometimes in top hats and rusty, faded morning coats, or 
in open-necked shirts and riding breeches, would stroll into the 
Council room to conduct the business of the country. 

They sat round a baize-covered horseshoe table in a long narrow 
room with a canvas ceiling and bare, whitewashed walls. At one 
end of the chamber was a raised platform, on which the President 
sat under an archway of drapery which embraced the national 
colors. Next to the presidential chair was a large brass spittoon, of 
which Kruger took frequent advantage with an unfailing accuracy 
of projection. He always wore a narrow-brimmed top hat, and his 
large stomach was made even more prominent by the broad sash 
of emerald green which sloped across his body to disappear under 
the lapels of his shabby black coat 

Kruger was a man of bold, coarse features. The outline of his 
face was fringed from ear to ear by a half-halo of beard which 
started below his chin and dripped over his neck. The rest of 
his face was bare and smooth. His eyes were small, direct and 
piercing; they were couched in pronounced pouches of flesh. His 
nose was broad and ill-defined. His mouth was heavy-lipped. 

Paul Kruger was a simple, honest, straightforward man with a 

[70] 



Johannesburg is proclaimed a public diggings. The official notice in 
the government gazette in September, 1886. 



THE PEOPLE 

will of iron and a heart of steel. His single-track mind viewed 
every problem and crisis that presented itself to him in the light 
of simplified Nature stories or Biblical allegories. He would 
compare the growth of civilization spreading before him with 
the progress of the trees and flowers that sprang up after rain, with 
the march of Nature, He would compare the ways of men 
with the ways of wild animals which he knew and understood so 
well, and always, inevitably, he would relate his findings to the 
teachings of his beloved Bible. 

This process of judgment served him well, and earned for him 
the name of a great leader among his own people, and of a shrewd 
old man among the people of the goldfields. All the early prej- 
udices of his trekker youth stayed fast with him. His fine, 
splendid courage never left him, and to the outside world he was 
a man of powerful strength. But he was always afraid in his 
heart terribly afraid that the new race of foreigners which had 
swarmed to the goldfields would beat down his Boers into the dust 
and mud of their own country. 

At first, after the proclamation of the goldfields, he did nothing 
and said nothing, but he watched suspiciously. Then, as the Reef 
was opened up and the gold-bearing rock of his country came 
up from the earth in bucket-loads, to put money in the pockets of 
the foreigners, Kruger decided that he and his people must have 
a share in this wealth. 

One of the first moves he took in this direction was to inaugurate 
a system of monopolies. This amounted, in essence, to no more 
than an officially approved, Government-sanctioned scheme of 
graft, although it labored under the euphemistic title of "con- 
cessions." The plan allowed for the granting of industrial monop- 
olies to any man who could pay the Government's price, and wfeo 
could, at the same time, win the approval of the President for per- 
sonal reasons. 

Thus the monopoly of making spirits and strong drink was 
given to Nellmapius. For thirty years, under the terms of his agree- 
ment, this one man had the sole right of producing liquor in the 
South African Republic, and this litde privilege cost him the sum 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

of one thousand pounds a year, which money was paid over to the 
Council of the Volksraad. The term "strong drink" was taken 
full advantage of by Nellmapius, for he turned out a whisky 
which tore the skin off the throats of the miners and made them 
come back, a trifle unsteadily, for more. 

After this, Kruger and his band of obedient Boers proceeded 
to give out concessions with unflagging energy. They granted 
the monopoly of smelting iron to one man, of making paper to 
another; they handed out concessions for the manufacture of 
bread, for the transmission of power by electricity, for the produc- 
tion of soaps, for woolen stuffs, rope and cord, lead pipes, furni- 
ture, matches, paint and dynamite. 

Any man who knew how to handle the President, and could 
afford to pay the price, was able to obtain the sole right to manu- 
facture and sell any commodity. Thus concession-hunting in the 
South African Republic became a mad race to please the Presi- 
dent and the People's Parliament. Lithuanians learned to speak 
Dutch, Englishmen learned to drink coffee instead of brandy, 
Scotchmen learned to pay their way into the audiences of the 
Council, and diamond kings learned to be obsequious and to buy 
expensive presents. And in this way the Volksraad learned how 
to increase its revenue by about twenty thousand pounds a year. 

To what extent the President and Council benefited personally 
by the granting of concessions has never been told. But outside 
Kruger's house in Pretoria there are still to be seen a pair of marble 
lions, one of which looks very coy and the other most surprised, 
given to the President at great expense by Barney Barnato. To 
ask why this gift was made is to receive the unsatisfactory reply 
that Kruger wanted the lions. 

Of all the concessions given, only one ruffled the even temper of 
the goldfields, and that was the dynamite monopoly. This con- 
cession was granted to Edward Lippert for a period of sixteen 
years, and provided him, or his company, with the sole right to 
manufacture and sell all ammunition and explosives. Lippert 
contracted to pay the Government three thousand seven hundred 
and fifty pounds a year for this right in addition to two shillings on 

[72] 



THE PEOPLE 

every case sold, and in return the Government promised to prohibit 
the import of all dynamite into the country. For two years the 
mining industry on the Rand suffered the concession in silence, 
and then, in 1889, with the formation of the Chamber of Mines, 
they protested violently to the Government against the properties 
of the local dynamite, declaring that it was inefficient, dangerous 
and very costly to the industry. 

This outburst of the industry was due, not so much to the quality 
of the dynamite as to the fact that the Rand was slowly beginning 
to appreciate that it was paying heavily for the privilege of gold- 
mining, and the dynamite monopoly was chosen as a pretty sound 
excuse for starting an argument. 

The Chamber of Mines was very active on its inception, and it 
estimated that out of a revenue of one million five hundred and 
seventy-seven thousand four hundred and forty-five pounds the 
Government received eight hundred and eighty-two thousand one 
hundred and ninety-five pounds directly from the goldfields in 
taxes in customs dues, transfer dues, diggers' licenses, prospect- 
ing licenses, leases, stamp tax, road tax, fines, and so on. Despite 
its youthful ardor, the Chamber of Mines was probably right. 

The Government, however, adhering steadfastly to one of its 
golden rules, did nothing. 

In the meantime, on the Rand the diggers had discovered that 
gold-mining was not a poor man's profession. The rich outcrop 
of surface ore had been mined, and to continue development, 
heavy and expensive machinery was needed. Even then, the 
engineers were by no means certain that the Reef persisted. Many 
of them, surprised at the stability it had shown so far, argued with 
all the force and knowledge at their command that the gold- 
bearing rock could not possibly persist. The geological formation 
of the Reef proved emphatically, they said, that it was no more than 
the uptilted bed of a river, and for this reason alone it must pinch 
out at any moment. 

It was the money made in diamond diggings in Kimberley that 
eventually went to build the foundations of the modern Wit- 
watersrand. If some little child had not found that pretty pebble 

[73] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

on the banks of the Orange River some years previously, the his- 
tory of the Rand would have proved a very different account. 
The difficulties and problems that had already confronted the 
industry, and were still to present themselves with greater magni- 
tude, would almost certainly have conquered the humble pros- 
pector, and have defeated the hopeful digger. As it was, though, 
the offensive attack put up by big capital and heavy banking ac- 
counts, reinforced with a greed for increasing these reserves and 
a fear of losing them altogether, harassed the stubborn defensive 
of the silent secretive gray rock. The fight went on. There was 
no certainty about the result. In 1890 the issue hung doubtfully in 
the balance. 

In order to continue the operations of ordinary mining on the 
Rand, it was necessary now to sink shafts and take the position 
seriously. This meant the importation of machinery, first by ship 
from England, then by ox-wagon from either Capetown or Dur- 
ban. Now, an ox-wagon is a picturesque vehicle, but one wholly 
unsuited for transporting weighty stamp batteries, cumbersome 
dynamos and clumsy iron engines. But there was no other way. 
There was no railway communication between Johannesburg and 
the rest of the country. 

So the ox-wagons toiled their way like great wooden tortoises 
over the hills, across the deep cracked dongas, through swirl- 
ing rivers, and across dry river-beds, carrying mammoth iron 
wheels, rails and rock drills, nuts and bolts, buckets and wire- 
netting, locks, hinges, staples, chains. They creaked and groaned 
over the thousand miles that separated Johannesburg from Cape- 
town, and the oxen sweated and strained as they were urged for- 
ward with the long stinging whip. 

The roads to Johannesburg, or rather the tracks through the 
veldt, were lined with broken-down wagons and their rusting 
freight. The mines on the Reef waited pessimistically for their 
machinery to arrive. If they waited long enough, the chances 
were that it would be found perhaps five hundred miles away, 
lying on the veldt beside a rotting wagon. 

And although ox-wagons are picturesque vehicles, they prove a 

[74] 



THE PEOPLE 

very expensive form of charming nonsense when they are carry- 
ing machinery on order for serious work. 

For many months past Johannesburg had been asking Kruger 
and his Government to construct a railway communication be- 
tween the Rand and the coast. They had begged, prayed, sulked 
and sworn. They had pointed out that it was impossible to con- 
tinue work on the mines unless transport conditions were made 
more favorable, and they had taken particular care to draw the 
attention of the Volksraad to the enormous loss in revenue the 
country would sustain if evil befell the mining industry. The 
big men of the Rand went to Pretoria in person. They sat on the 
veranda of Kruger's house. They talked Dutch, which they dis- 
liked; they drank coffee, which they hated; they bought expensive 
presents. But they did not get their railways. 

Kruger sat listening to their arguments, unmoved. When they 
grew excited, he pulled away quietly at his great curved pipe. 
When they began to talk about State finances, he listened intently, 
and said no word. When they grew angry, he smiled. Kruger 
was not going to be caught in this way. Oh, no. They wanted 
railways, did they? Of course they wanted railways. They 
wanted to connect his State with all the other provinces of the 
country. They wanted to throw open wide the gates of the South 
African Republic to the whole world. Well, they wouldn't be 
given this chance they were seeking so anxiously. To build a 
railway line to the coast would be to invite yes, invite every 
foreigner, every Uitlander on the face of the globe to his State. It 
was funny to think of inviting them in, when all he really wanted 
to do was to chase them out. Railways meant food pouring into 
his country, too. His farmers could provide all the food that 
Johannesburg needed. Yes, of course they wanted railways to 
bring people and food to the Republic, to tramp and tread on his 
farmers, to snap their fingers in his face. Well, they wouldn't get 
the chance. That was all. 

The big men went back to the Rand, but leaving behind their 
expensive presents, in the forlorn hope that Kruger, in a wave of 
gratitude at their generosity, would relent. But Kruger was never 

[75] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

grateful to the foreigner. The big men had very little to report 
to their mining colleagues because Kruger, of course, had said 
nothing, and would see that the Volksraad said nothing. 

In Johannesburg the Chamber of Mines continued to work 
things out for its members, and told them in a dignified way what 
they already knew about the effect of transport on the mines. 

"The industry," it reported, "is in" danger of failure unless 
steps be taken to remove the difficulties under which it 
labours. The chief obstacle to the prosperity of the mining 
industry is the cost, delay, and uncertainty of transport of 
machinery, food and general supplies, owing to the absence 
of railway communication with the coast. Last year alone 
1,950,618 was spent in transporting goods to Johannesburg. 
A saving of ^1,430,454 would have been effected by means of 
railway transport. 

"The construction of railways would enable a very large 
number of reefs of moderate and low-grade ore which at 
present cannot be worked (a mine yielding ten pennyweights 
is a loss under present conditions and cannot be worked) to be 
opened up with profitable results, and would ensure the wide 
extension of the goldficlds into districts which now are neces- 
sarily neglected or abandoned." 

But the attention which this very proper statement should have 
received from the mining industry was lacking. A newer and far 
more serious problem than the need for railways had occurred on 
the Rand, to absorb the energies of the mining population. It did 
not matter so much that they could not get the machinery to work 
the mines, because now they could not get the gold free. 

The doom of Witwatersrand echoed perilously close to the 
freshly dug holes that stretched themselves out along the Reef. 
The oxidized ore which had dipped into the ground from the sur- 
face for a few hundred feet had disappeared. In its place the 
miners encountered a sheet of pyritic ore. The iron pyrites coated 
the gold, and when the rock was crushed, the gold now cased in 
pyrites could not be caught on the plates. More than eighty per 

[76] 



THE PEOPLE 

cent of the gold brought up from the ground slipped away from 
the plates to be washed out in the tailings. The little free gold con- 
tained in the rock was poor consolation to the industry. It was 
not enough to pay expenses. 

This, then, was the problem that confronted the industry the 
problem of how to prevent the gold from slipping through their 
fingers. However hard they tried, whatever they did, however 
much they persisted, the miners of the Rand could find no solu- 
tion. They had been struck a deadly blow. There was apparently no 
cure. The funeral march sounded along the Witwatersrand, 
gathering up the hopes and beliefs of the people, and enveloping 
the town of Johannesburg in a mournful finale of despair. The 
speckled band of gray rock lay quietly in the earth. It was useless 
now. One by one the people of Johannesburg locked up their 
shops and offices and crept away. The story of Johannesburg was 
ended for them. It was the story of the Rotten Reef. Grass grew 
in the streets, and the dust settled in thick layers on the town. 

But the capitalists and mine owners would not surrender until 
every ally had been called into the field. They plunged more and 
more money into their ineffectual attack. They tried one inven- 
tion, one patent after another; but still the iron pyrites clung 
tenaciously to the gold, and whisked it away from the plates. 
Nothing, it seemed, could ever part the two metals. The cost of 
mining the fragmentary residue was prohibitive. The white flag 
was taken out and dusted. But before it could be hoisted a Scotch- 
man named MacArthur won the battle for the mine owners in a 
little laboratory in Edinburgh. He had found a way of freeing the 
gold. 

The MacArthur-Forrest process, like many another important 
discovery, was extremely simple. It was based on the strong 
affinity that cyanide has for gold in preference to baser metals. 
The method employed in this process was to dissolve the gold in 
cyanide, leaving the pyrites unattacked. The cyanide solution 
containing the dissolved gold was then passed through a mass of 
metallic zinc, and in the course of this operation the zinc replaced 
the gold in solution, and the gold itself was deposited as a black 

[77] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

powder, which was then separated from the remainder of the 
zinc by sieving. The black slime was then mixed with oxide of 
lead, carbon and carbonate of soda and charged into a furnace. 
The resulting lead bullion was subjected to further heat to form 
comparatively pure gold. 

The MacArthur-Forrest cyanide process was first introduced on 
the Rand in 1890, when it saved the life of the mines. The system 
is still in use today, and has to its credit not only the development 
of the Witwatersrand, but also a respectable list of perhaps not 
such respectable millionaires. 

Once the scare occasioned by the threatened death of the in- 
dustry a menace which could not, for once, be laid at the door 
of Parliament had faded, the mining population had time and 
cause to remember the necessity for obtaining railway communica- 
tion. And now, having come through a crisis which left them 
sensitive and apprehensive, the industry took up the demand for 
railways in full-throated chorus. They had been dangerously ill, 
hovering between life and death for weeks; they had recovered to 
find that their governess was harsh and unsympathetic, even dur- 
ing their convalescence. They began to feel badly treated, first on 
one score, and then, as they thought about it more, on a score of 
scores. They were heavily taxed, to provide the main economic 
support of the whole country; they had not a vote, a single word, 
in the government of the State; ridiculous monopolies were 
granted which reacted heavily against them; there were no rail- 
ways. The most obvious nail to hammer was the last one, and so, 
with one accord, they demanded railway communication. 

Kruger was not so certain of his step now as he had been. The 
noise from Johannesburg grew deafening. He wondered 

And yet it would be a fatal move to give these foreigners their 
way. The clamor grew louder, but there was no echo from 
Pretoria. 

Then Kruger's own teacher and guide, the earth and the 
heavens, stepped in and led the way. The country was seized in 
the grip of a drought not a playful little drought such as calls 
forth headlines in English newspapers, but a grim devil of a 

[78] 



THE PEOPLE 

drought which suffocated the country and squeezed the blood out 
of its veins. For months past there had been no drop of rain. The 
withered grass was scorched to charred straw by the sun. The 
river-beds were thick with dust. The mealie plants, the corn, the 
greenstuff of the fields, were struck down by the sun. The animals 
of the farms died of thirst and starvation, and the simple Boer 
farmers gathered to pray for rain; but it did not come. They 
fired cannon into the occasional clouds, hoping to split them open 
and release their water. But the clouds hurried away from the 
onslaught, leaving a clear burning sky. The drought continued. 
One morning early in October the people of the Republic woke 
to face a famine. The lumbering ox-wagons dragging their way 
from the coast were bringing machinery to the Rand, but no food. 
The farms stretching along the ridge into the north were grave- 
yards. 

There was in the town enough food for eleven days, if it were 
rationed out carefully. After that forty thousand people, black 
and white, would have to starve unless some very urgent measure 
was taken at once. The people of the Rand, led by the Chamber 
of Mines, petitioned the Government for help. And now Kruger 
had to act, and act quickly. The position was ugly and dangerous. 
On the advice of the mining industry, the Government, shaken 
out of their usual somnolence, immediately voted a sum of five 
thousand pounds for the alleviation of distress. This money was 
to be used as a carrot before the donkey. It was to be distributed 
in bonuses of twenty pounds to the first two hundred and fifty 
wagoners to arrive in Johannesburg with flour, Boer meal, mealies 
and mealie meal. The Government's offer was gazetted, and 
there followed a new and different rush to the Rand. The ox-race 
had begun. They came from the Cape, from Griqualand West, 
from Natal. They came from the Orange Free State. Every 
vehicle on four wheels was commandeered, filled with food, and 
sent rolling up to the Rand. The African landscape was dotted 
with sweating oxen and rumbling wagons. The air hummed 
with the cracking of whips. Natal sent nearly six hundred wagons 
in a fortnight, Bechuanaland sent two hundred. The Kimberley 

[79l 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

teams were on the road for thirteen days, and they staggered into 
Johannesburg just as the last bag of meal was rationed out. In 
the nick of time, one and a half million pounds of food came 
pouring into the empty cupboards of the Rand. 

Perhaps it was this specter of famine which frightened Kruger. 
Perhaps it was the flood of petitions which streamed toward him 
from Johannesburg. Perhaps it was the fact that Cecil Rhodes 
was building railways from the Cape right up to the border of 
his Republic that finally decided him. 

At any rate, with an uneasy feeling in his mind, and a sense of 
approaching disaster in his heart, the President gave the word to 
his followers, and in June, 1890, the Parliament of Pretoria 
unanimously agreed to the immediate construction of a main 
trunk-line from Delagoa Bay to the Rand. 

Now, Kruger was a cautious player. He passed the first round, 
he passed the second round; but he held several trumps and the 
ace of a major suit. He played his ace out first. He gave a con- 
cession for the building of the railway line from Delagoa Bay to 
the Netherlands Railway Company of Amsterdam. To make 
matters worse, the proper name of this company was Neder- 
landsche Zuid Afrikaansche Spoorwegmaatschappij. 

The monopoly of this unpronounceable company over the new 
railway line was to remain in force for ninety-nine years. A com- 
forting little concession this comforting at least to Kruger; for 
the largest shareholder in the firm was the Government of the 
South African Republic, and Kruger, through his Commissioner 
of Railways, could, and fully intended to, exercise paramount con- 
trol over it. Well, the foreigners in Johannesburg had wanted 
railways, had shrieked and cried and shouted for them. Now they 
were going to get them. 

The railroad builders took their time over constructing the 
line and they took a great deal of money too. After all, what 
was the good of having a monopoly unless one could have a little 
comfort and ease with it? One must have a certain amount of 
leisure, and make a good profit as well. That was the motto of 
all good monopolists, and who is to say that the N.Z.A.S. was not 

[80] 



THE PEOPLE 

a good monopolist? At least, they saw the job through, for in 
September, 1892, much to the surprise of the Johannesburg people, 
the railway connecting the Rand to Delagoa Bay was completed. 
It was also linked up with the Cape route. This was to tease 
Rhodes. It was the lion tamer tweaking the lion's tail. Kruger, 
courageous as he was, would never have done it had he not felt 
pretty safe. But he thought it seemed an infallible judgment 
that his Delagoa Bay line, which separated the port from Johannes- 
burg by only four hundred miles, must beat RJhodes and his thou- 
sand miles of line to the Cape. But Kruger could not have been 
very good at mathematics, for when his trains started running, he 
was horrified to find that the heavy expenses incurred in building 
the Delagoa Bay line made it possible for Rhodes to offer cheaper 
tariffs on the Cape run, and thus win away the Rand traffic. 

Kruger was very angry. He had been bitten. Damning the 
economic consequences, he tried to capture the trade of the mining 
industry by offering preferential rates on the Delagoa Bay system. 
But the mining industry could not be persuaded. They had tried 
the N.Z.A.S. line and had found it unreliable, uncertain and lazy. 
It was conducted, too, by a staff of employees imported from Hol- 
land. Whether this was a significant factor in the attitude of the 
industry has never been proved. Whether the racialism and bitter 
hatred that were to tear apart the Dutch and English in later years 
were already at work over the Delagoa Bay railway line has not 
been clearly revealed. Whether the resentment gradually spring- 
ing up between Boer and Briton in the Republic was adult enough 
to take a hand in the business affairs is uncertain. But it is clear 
enough that the great commercial public of the Witwatersrand 
found that they preferred to support Rhodes rather than Kruger. 

Kruger, very naturally, was infuriated by this, and retaliated by 
making the rates on that strip of the Cape railway which had to 
cross the Republic so high as to be almost prohibitive. Rhodes' 
answer was to unload goods at the border, transship them to fast 
ox-wagons and send them up to Johannesburg. A clever reply. 
Kruger, now losing his political temper and balance, ordered the 
drifts to be dosed against the wagons. But Rhodes, cool and col- 

[81] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

lected, appealed through the High Commissioner to Chamberlain, 
and Kruger was forced to open the drifts again. 

The battle between Rhodes and Kruger, between Dutch and 
English, had begun. 

Now, the mining population of the Rand that is to say, the 
town of Johannesburg had made the surprising discovery that 
the Reef of gold-bearing rock did not peter out. They had been 
more or less sure up till then that the band of banket would 
fade out at any minute, and consequently, apart from grousing 
every now and then to show that they were still English, they had 
not bothered to entrench themselves. But during the last year or 
two the leading mine companies had been importing American 
engineers to the Rand, and, with their usual pep and energy, these 
men had been nosing about the Rand with the unprecedented idea 
of finding out the exact potentialities of the Reef. 

They had sunk boreholes, taken samples, and worked out 
intricate problems with the use of "X." The result was that they 
found that the Reef, instead of pinching out, went on dipping 
down into the earth indefinitely even down to a depth of two 
or maybe three thousand feet. The effect of such pronouncements 
was to impregnate Johannesburg with ideas of stability. The 
mining population began to realize that they might have to live 
in the South African Republic for some time, and they began 
seriously to consider "their rights." 

These rights, at the moment, amounted to no more than the 
right to make money out of the goldfields. But this was not 
enough for the sons of Great Britain, nor, they whispered per- 
suasively, was it enough for the sons of Lithuania, Russia, Austria 
and Jerusalem. Now that the railways had been built, they had to 
think up something else quickly, so they thought up representa- 
tion. The heterogeneous people of Johannesburg, led by a few 
far-flung Englishmen, demanded to be represented in the govern- 
ment of the country. This, on the face of it, seems very stupid. 
Why ever they wanted to start getting tied up in the knots of the 
People's Parliament of Pretoria, when they had enough to keep 
them busy making money on the Rand, is obscure. But such is 

[82] 



THE PEOPLE 

the conscience and morale of empire-builders that they do not 
want to keep their fingers out of any pie, no matter how sour and 
acid the plums in that pie may be. They always believe, of course, 
that they can put in some sugar and cook the dish themselves to 
perfection. 

Johannesburg said it wanted immediate representation. The 
position at the time was that, after fourteen years' qualification, 
the full franchise was extended to the people; but Johannesburg 
did not regard this as representation. It also said it wanted a re- 
duction in taxation. This last was a plausible demand; for the 
mining industry was paying four-fifths of the revenue of the State, 
and it was being hampered in the development of the less rich reefs 
by this heavy burden. To keep the ball rolling it also said it 
wanted the withdrawal of the dynamite concession. 

Kruger's reply to these demands was made to his Boer sup- 
porters on the veranda of his house in Pretoria. Immediate 
representation, he pointed out, between puffs on his long pipe, 
would mean giving the country away as a present to the foreigners. 
They could qualify as citizens of the State after fourteen years. 
That meant that many of them would have representation in the 
year 1900. But no, this was not enough for them. They wanted it 
at once. Then the hordes of foreigners would outvote, and dis- 
place, the rightful owners of the country. They wanted every- 
thing. They wanted to swamp the Dutch. That must be made 
impossible. Reduction in taxation meant a heavy loss to the 
State revenue, and a consequent shrinkage in the activities of the 
Republic. This shrinkage would be felt very considerably by 
the farmers. Besides, the goldfields of the Witwatersrand did not 
belong to the foreigners; they belonged to the country, and the 
people of the country. They were laid down by Nature, not 
especially for the English or the Scotch, but for the people of the 
Republic. It was true that the mines were being worked by one 
section, but they must, in all reasonable judgment, pay for all 
sections. So there could be no reduction in taxation. 

As for the dynamite concession well, this, as his friends knew, 
had proved very profitable to them, 

[83] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

But Johannesburg had begun to talk itself into a combative 
mood. The more its grievances were handed round from one to 
another of the people, the larger became the proportions of their 
complaints. The Rand grew determined not to be swamped by 
Kruger and his Dutchmen. Kruger stood firmly declared not to 
be swamped by the foreigners. And so the rift grew, and what 
had begun as an argument rapidly developed into a spiteful row, 
and culminated in a fight. 

In 1892 a body of men, including many leaders of the mining 
industry, formed an organization known as the Transvaal Na- 
tional Union. These men banded together in the belief that con- 
ditions of life were becoming intolerable for them, and with the 
vague intention that something should be done by Johannesburg 
to bring about the reforms they wanted. They did nothing for 
some considerable time except anger each other with inflammatory 
talk directed against Kruger and the Dutch of the country. 

It was about two years later that three men sat talking over a 
campfire in Rhodesia. One of these men was John Hays Ham- 
mond, an American mining engineer. The second was Doctor 
Leander Starr Jameson. The third was Cecil Rhodes. They were 
talking about the Rand. Rhodes knew a little about Johannes- 
burg, for he was Managing Director of the Goldfields of South 
Africa, one of the leading mining companies on the Reef. But 
his attentions were rarely given to the Rand, for he was too fully 
absorbed by his activities in the Cape and Rhodesia. So Ham- 
mond was telling him about the mining industry and the people 
of Johannesburg. He told Rhodes that it was impossible for the 
economic conditions of the Rand to continue as they were. The 
poorer reefs, he said, would not pay because of the heavy taxation. 

Rhodes and Jameson were interested, and on leaving Rhodesia 
they went down to Johannesburg to discover for themselves the 
true position. They found the settlement enveloped in resent- 
ment and suppressed fury. A sullen hatred of Kruger had grown 
up in the dusty streets of this mining town, and all his measures, 
all the resolutions passed by Government, were now regarded as 
direct insults to the Rand. 

[84] 



THE PEOPLE 

Led by the most prominent men in the town, the people of 
Johannesburg were being treated to a particularized form of 
jingoism, for which South Africa should long since have become 
noted. The talk centered a great deal on the glory of the Union 
Jack, the magnificent deeds of the father and grandfather of every- 
one present, the wonderful heritage that had been specially left 
to the speaker and his audience, the necessity for them to uphold 
the honor of Great Britain, and the need for them to show the 
fatherland that they were worthy sons of their own glorious soil. 
These speeches, delivered nightly at eight-thirty, usually ended in 
a passionate and throbbing crescendo of alleged patriotism and, 
had any doubts existed in the manly breasts of the gathering, these 
were banished by Rule Britannia and God Save the Queen, which 
lusty finale was calculated to bring any hesitating Czech or back- 
ward Pole rushing into the folds of the Union Jack. Community 
singing has much to answer for in the shaping of the world. 

The people of the Rand successfully worked themselves into a 
fever of loyalty and affection which would undoubtedly have 
embarrassed Great Britain very much had she known. In the 
eyes of Johannesburg nothing was too good for England, no deed 
was too splendid to commit in her name. But they were not 
going to be stopped from committing splendid deeds by this 
modesty, so when Rhodes arrived they were talking about an 
armed uprising against the Dutch. 

Rhodes found that the most influential members of the mining 
industry had joined in the angry movement and were leading the 
way Alfred Beit, Lionel Phillips, Abe Bailey, George Farrar, 
supported and surrounded by a host of less influential but more 
emphatic reactionaries. 

Rhodes went away to attend to his duties as Prime Minister of 
the Cape and Chairman of the Chartered Company of Rhodesia. 
But he came back with the suggestion that there must be an armed 
force on the border, not to stimulate a rising, but to be in readiness 
in case Johannesburg should need support. And the talk of 
revolution, which came at first so haltingly from the lips of 
Johannesburg, was now spat out vindictively. 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

As a last chance to Kruger, the Rand sent a monster petition 
bearing 32,479 signatures, demanding extended franchise. Of all 
their grievances, they chose this, the least genuine, to act as an 
ultimatum for them. And in Pretoria, Kruger was faced with the 
reality of his forebodings. He was not lacking in either courage or 
conviction as he stood before the People's Parliament to oppose 
the petition. He attacked it with every nerve in his body. He 
would not and could not give in. He would not forfeit his beloved 
country. Passionately, and with a strangely inspired eloquence, 
Kruger urged the rejection of the petition and it was rejected. 

In Johannesburg the Reform Committee planned to get their 
way. The plot which commended itself to these tin captains of 
colonial commerce and industry as a splendid and foolproof 
gesture of defiance, is worn down by the passage of years to ap- 
pear now as a wretched and unhappy affair. The scheme solemnly 
decided upon by the Reform Committee was that the revolution- 
aries should seize the town of Johannesburg, which would not be 
difficult, as all Johannesburg was revolutionary, and then, having 
declared themselves the provisional government of the country, 
they were to raid and capture the fort of Pretoria, which they be- 
lieved contained an arsenal with some ten thousand rifles. After 
this they were a little vague as to what they were going to do, but 
it would be something like appealing to the world to uphold 
them in their demands for extended franchise. 

The Reform Committee knew perfectly well that the Dutch 
of the Republic would resist the rising, and this was where Doctor 
Jameson would ride in from the border with a force of armed 
men. It was arranged that Jameson would not attack until he 
received the word from Johannesburg. And in the meantime the 
Reform Committee prepared the town for the rising by smug- 
gling arms on to the Rand. Meanwhile Kruger discussed the 
rumors of such a rising with his burghers and said: 

"Wait until the time comes. Take a tortoise; if you want to 
kill it you must wait until it puts its head out, and then you cut 
it off." 

But the collusion between Jameson and the Reform Committee 

[86] 




From The World's Work. 



The late Cecil John Rhodes. 



THE PEOPLE 

did not synchronize. Late in the evening of December 29, 1895, 
while the mining magnates were drinking whiskies and talking 
of their scheme to overthrow Kruger, Doctor Jameson started off 
from Pitsani with a body of mounted men to descend upon the 
peaceful town of Johannesburg. 

Seventy miles on, Jameson received a note from the Dutch 
Commandant-General of the Republic demanding to know the 
reason of the advance, and ordering him to return immediately. 
Jameson replied that his reasons were not hostile, but that he was 
riding to assist the principal residents of the Rand "in their de- 
mand for justice and the ordinary rights of every citizen of a 
civilized State." Two days later, as the force rode steadily nearer 
Johannesburg, Jameson received another message, this time from 
the Agent of the British Government. 

"Her Majesty's Government," it said, "entirely disapprove 
your conduct in invading Transvaal with armed force; your 
action has been repudiated you are ordered to retire at once 
from the country, and will be held personally responsible for 
the consequences of your unauthorised and most improper 
proceeding." 

But Jameson and his men rode on through the flat unbroken 
country. His men were tired and weary. They had not eaten for 
twenty-four hours, and any illusion they may have held about 
being unopposed was dispelled when they found that a force of 
burghers was dogging their footsteps through the dry parched 
veldt. Jameson, at first proud and defiant, was now hoping that 
reinforcements from Johannesburg would come to meet him. 
But with each step forward his optimism grew fainter. Once, in 
the failing light, Sir John Willoughby, his henchman, caught sight 
of a large body of moving men, and concluding that these, at last, 
were the reinforcements from Johannesburg, he dashed forward 
at a canter to greet his colleagues. The spitting fire of guns did 
not cease as he rode toward them. The army was a force of 
Dutch burghers. Ten miles out of Johannesburg, Jameson and 
his men climbed a rise, and rode wearily forward. They rode right 

[87] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

into a trap laid for them by the waiting Boers. On all sides the 
rocks and boulders of the country were covered with the Maxims 
and rifles of the burghers. The Dutchmen, who had up till now 
held their fire save for occasional sniping on the rear, subjected 
the raiders to a heavy fusillade. 

As night fell the attack dwindled to intermittent firing, and 
next morning, in the light of dawn, Jameson and his men dis- 
covered that the boulders were alive with Dutch guns. Both 
advance and retreat were blocked, and they were in a circle of 
enemy fire. The help from Johannesburg did not come. The 
burghers began a strong attack, and Jameson saw the position was 
hopeless. With little resistance he surrendered. It was the end 
of the Jameson Raid. The revolt in Johannesburg had never even 
started. All that Jameson had succeeded in doing was to surprise 
his colleagues on the Reform Committee, -anger the Dutch, and 
push the sympathies of the world toward Kruger. 

Kruger was not such a fool as the English thought him. He 
made good use of this sympathy, and took care that neither he 
nor his followers should do anything at this juncture which might 
undermine the sentimental feelings of the world toward the in- 
nocently attacked Republicans. He went one further. He piled 
on the sob-stuff, and then adopted the r61e of magnanimous martyr. 
He was playing a desperate game now, with his country as the 
stakes. Jameson and his leaders were arrested and sent to jail in 
Pretoria. Later they were handed over to the Imperial authorities, 
and were sent to England to stand trial. Jameson was sentenced to 
fifteen months' imprisonment, Willoughby to ten, Robert White 
to seven, and the other three to five months each. 

The Dutch of the Transvaal were more interested, however, in 
the fate of the Reform Committee. It was these men, after all, 
who, living in their country, taking the gold out of their earth, 
had plotted treason in their midst. The night before the mining 
magnates, the lawyers, and the doctors of Johannesburg were 
arrested, Kruger issued an unusually naive proclamation. It was 
addressed to the inhabitants of the Rand, but was meant for the 
ears of the world. 

[88] 



THE PEOPLE 

"I, Stephanus Paulus Kruger, State-President of the South 
African Republic, with the advice and consent of the Execu- 
tive Council, make known to all the inhabitants of Johannes- 
burg and adjoining vicinities, that I am unutterably thankful 
to God that, through the courage and bravery of my burghers, 
the contemptible and treacherous raid in my country was 
repulsed and the independence of the Republic saved. 

"The persons guilty of this crime must naturally be punished 
according to law; that is, prosecuted before the High Court 
and a jury. But there are thousands that have been misled, 
and I am sure that even amongst the so-called leaders of the 
movement there are many who have been deceived. A small 
minority of shrewd men in the country and outside have in- 
cited the unhappy inhabitants of Johannesburg under the false 
pretence of fighting for political rights. Day after day they 
were goaded, and when, in their insanity, they thought that 
the moment had come, Dr. Jameson was sent over the borders 
of the Republic. Did they ever ask themselves what would 
happen to you ? 

"I shiver when I come to think what massacre could have 
been caused if a lenient Providence had not saved you and my 
burghers. 

"I do not speak of the damage caused financially. 

"I now turn to you in full confidence; strengthen the hands 
of the Government, and work in co-operation with it to make 
this Republic a country where all nationalities can live like 
brothers together. 

"For months and months I have been contriving to find 
those alterations and improvements which would be deemed 
desirable in the State Government. But the abominable incite- 
ment of the public, aided and magnified by the Press, has kept 
me back. The same men that appeared as leaders of the peo- 
ple ask me for improvements in a tone and in a manner which 
they in their own native country would not have dared to use. 
Thus it was made impossible for me and my burghers, the 
founders of the Republic, to take these uncouth proposals into 
consideration. 

"It was my intention to propose a resolution to the first 
session of the Volksraad, that a Town Council and Mayor be 

[89] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

appoints to manage the affairs of your city. According to all 
constitutional principles, such a Town Council would be 
elected by the direct vote of all the inhabitants of the town. 

"I ask you earnestly to lay your hand on your heart and 
answer this question: Can I and may I, after what has hap- 
pened, propose this to Parliament ? My answer is that I know 
there are thousands of people in Johannesburg to whom I can 
give this vote with confidence. Inhabitants of Johannesburg, 
make it possible for the Council to go to the People's Parlia- 
ment with the motto 'Forget and forgive.' 

"God save the land and people." 

The next day the Reform Committee was arrested, and Abe 
Bailey, Solly Joel, Lionel Phillips, George Farrar, John Hays 
Hammond, and the rest of the wealthy and influential men in 
the movement were sent to jail. They were tried in the High 
Court at Pretoria, and the ringleaders, Phillips, Frank Rhodes, who 
was, incidentally, Cecil Rhodes' brother, Farrar and Hays Ham- 
mond were sentenced to death. The other fifty-nine accused were 
sentenced to two years' imprisonment and a fine of two thousand 
pounds each. Kruger was going to make a profit on his martyr- 
dom. The very next day it was announced that the death sentence 
would be commuted, while a later proclamation declared that all 
the prisoners would be set free on the payment of their original 
fines. The price of liberty for the four ringleaders was a fine of 
twenty-five thousand pounds each. Woolls-Sampson and Karri- 
Davics resolutely refused to pay, and were kept in prison until 
Kruger grew tired of them and Queen Victoria had a Diamond 
Jubilee. Then they were released. 

Curiously enough, the Jameson Raid taught no one a lesson, 
Kruger continued to wallow in his policy of self-protection from 
the foreigners. The dynamite concession, heavy taxation and the 
question of enfranchisement were left untouched. While in 
Johannesburg the people, unabashed by the dreadful mistake they 
had made, proceeded with the work of mining gold, and in their 
spare time continued to excite one another about their rights. 

Not an unusual story for the Colonies. One which was to end 
in the usual way. 

[90] 



CHAPTER IV 

BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

WHEN, IN 18863 THE RUMOR FIRST REACHED KIMBERLEY THAT GOLD 

had been discovered on the Witwatersrand, one of the people most 
interested was a little Jew known as Barney Barnato. This was 
not his real name. 

Thirteen years before the Rand was found, young Barnett Isaacs, 
second son of a general dealer in Aldgate, set sail from Southamp- 
ton to join his brother Henry on the diamond fields of South 
Africa. 

Henry Isaacs was managing to eke out a living as a dealer in 
Kimberley, and young Barnett, equipped with no other qualifica- 
tion but that of being an amateur conjurer and entertainer, decided 
that it would be far easier to amuse the diggers of Griqualand 
West than to convince the public of Aldgate, and probably more 
profitable. So he set out on the great adventure. On board the 
Anglian, young Isaacs flung away the last threads of amateurism, 
and entered the world of professionals by changing his name and 
preparing to accept any money offered him. He landed at Cape- 
town with the new name of Barnett Barnato, but very little else. 

The wagon journey to the diamond fields lasted nearly two 
months, and Barney's accommodation consisted of permission to 
walk alongside the wagon when it moved, and to sleep under it 
when it stopped. Kimberley, a settlement of dirty little tin shanties, 
flies and fever, did not appreciate the Arts, for the slim young 
man with the sense of humor and the accent which stamped him 
indelibly as a follower of Moses met with dismal failure as a 
public entertainer. The diggers and dealers had only one thing 
in common with the Royal Queen of England: they were not 
amused. 

Barney was driven to find some other way of earning money, 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

so he joined forces with his friend Lou Cohen, and together the 
two men struggled desperately to gain a foothold in the diamond 
world. They slept in a dirty little iron hut; they lived almost 
entirely on mealie porridge, and for a year the back streets of a 
distant Whitechapel seemed luxury to them. 

Then Henry Isaacs joined forces with his brother Barney, and 
a wooden sign bearing the name of "Barnato Brothers" was nailed 
up on the tin wall of the hut. For six years the brothers worked 
ceaselessly to build up a credit balance for themselves. They be- 
gan to realize that here in this insanitary village of diamond- 
seekers nothing mattered except money money was the key that 
would open any door. Without it, the finest man was worthless; 
with money, the most worthless man was a person of some ac- 
count, and a person to warrant attention and even respect. 

They set themselves the task of building a mountain of pounds, 
to stand as a landmark of their power and force. Barney Barnato 
learned, very early in his experience, that his national shrewdness 
would have to be exercised tirelessly to keep him abreast of the 
diamond dealers. It would have to be supplemented very ma- 
terially if it were to pull him into the lead. 

Conjuring tricks of his music-hall days could, he found, be 
successfully employed not on the boards, but on die diggings; not 
with rabbits and colored handkerchiefs, but with credits and debits, 
with pounds and shillings. For six years, then, he worked day 
and night. He would spend all the hours of the day nosing about 
among claims, dashing in and out of dark little offices in the 
settlement, making a deal here, and clinching a bargain there. 
At night he made a systematic tour of every bar, dance-hall and 
gambling hell in Kimberley, to talk and drink with the diggers 
and dealers, and to listen to the latest business gossip of the fields. 
Soon he had accumulated three thousand pounds, and with this 
money he bought his first claim in the Kimberley mine, and be- 
gan the business of diamond mining for himself, instead of merely 
dealing. 

After establishing the firm of Barnato Brothers in London as 
diamond dealers and financiers, Barney floated his claims in the 

[92] 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

Kimberley mine into his first company, the Barnato Diamond- 
Mining Company. This was the beginning of his success, a 
financial success of phenomenal proportions, which resulted in 
the amalgamation of his diamond interests with those of Cecil 
Rhodes into De Beers Consolidated Mines. 

The young Barnato was, by this time, a millionaire, the first 
millionaire made in South Africa. His successes in the money 
market did not, strangely enough, go to his head at first. He was 
still the little Jew from Aldgate, and was proud of it. His less 
fortunate companions on the diggings hinted darkly that Barney 
conjured diamonds into ground which never held diamonds be- 
fore. They talked with knowing emphasis of the power of money, 
and suggested, less emphatically and with more caution, that 
nefarious dealings were afoot on the Kimberley mine. Sometimes 
the three letters of accusation could be heard above the whisper of 
the billiard-room gossip, the three letters which summed up 
cryptically the condemnation of the fields I.D.B., Illicit Diamond- 
Buying. Not that Barney's critics were righteous men, for there 
was little place for righteousness in Kimberley in those days. 
They were merely jealous, and, like all envious people, they sought 
to counteract their pique with a spite and malice which they 
eventually grew to believe were well-founded. Barney went his 
way unconcerned, good-humored and friendly. His energy in- 
creased in ratio to his bank balance. His mountain of pounds 
grew high. He sweat as he shoveled for more money to add 
to the pile. 

When the news of the Rand strike first reached Kimberley, 
Barney was interested in an inactive way. He did not believe that 
the goldfields of the Witwatersrand would last, and, secure in his 
own judgment, he sat apart, watching with interest his colleagues 
chase off in ox-wagons after a golden mirage. His judgment in 
business matters had never failed him, and he was quite content 
now to be guided by his instincts, and to leave the Rand alone. 

Kimberley was kept well posted with news from the Rand, for 
a system of dispatch-riding had been inaugurated to fill the gap 
of telegraphic communication. Adventurous young men with 

[93] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

fast horses were employed to carry dispatches over the border of 
the two States between Otto's Hoop and Mafeking. It was im- 
portant to the big financial houses of Kimberley to learn the 
developments on the Rand as soon as possible, in order that they 
might have the option of investing money, buying properties, and 
controlling markets, if they so desired. Each house in Kimberley 
employed its own riders, and spared no expense in this organiza- 
tion of human telegraph poles. The result was that the twenty 
miles which separated Mafeking from Otto's Hoop was trans- 
formed into a vast stadium of competitive relay racers. Each 
mile was posted with fresh horses, and the riders, on receiving their 
messages, would charge off across the uneven stony veldt, to 
vault from one horse to another in full gallop, and race neck and 
neck against their rivals toward the finishing post of one or the 
other town. Four times a day the race was run to carry the news 
from the Rand to Kimberley. 

The reports from the goldfields, instead of indicating a linger- 
ing death, as Barney had predicted, grew more and more glowing, 
until in 1887 he wondered whether he could possibly have made 
a wrong diagnosis. Barnato was not the sort of man to allow 
pride to interfere with business. He decided that any doubt about 
the potentialities of the Witwatersrand must be settled at once, 
and so he engaged the services of two of the leading mining ex- 
perts in Kimberley, and set off to inspect the goldfields of the 
Transvaal. 

It was just as he thought. 

His engineers reported that the Reef was no more than the 
elevated bed of an old water-course, and that the auriferous rock 
could not extend to any depth. They advised Barnato to have 
nothing to do with the Rand. The geological formation of the 
Reef was something quite new to the mining world, and Barney 
had no means of judging the value of the deposit for himself. But 
he had the greatest faith in his engineers, and he returned to 
Kimberley quite satisfied to be out of a bad proposition. He was 
content and happy to let men like J. B. Robinson, Wernher, Beit 
and Eckstein burn their fingers on the Witwatersrand if they knew 

[94] 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

no better; but he, Barnato the millionaire, did not intend to lose a 
single grain from that mountain of money which he had built up 
so laboriously. 

The reports from Johannesburg grew more and more excited. 
The dispatch riders on the border raced each other furiously to 
Otto's Hoop. The Rand lived on, growing fat and strong. 
Barney's satisfaction turned at first to surprise, then to anxiety, 
and a fear that he had made a mistake, and then to a firm and 
resolute policy of action. He set off again for Johannesburg. This 
time he went alone. For a week he scoured the ridge from early 
morning till late at night. He examined properties, questioned 
miners and engineers, inspected development, peered over samples, 
and followed the lie of the Reef inch by inch. At the end of the 
week he had decided to buy up every mine and every business 
venture on the Rand. 

He had decided to become the master of Johannesburg, to own 
it, control it, and shape it to his will. He would buy out everybody 
and everything that stood in his way. He was determined to be 
the sole proprietor of this long stretch of gold-bearing country. 
He set to work acquiring properties, and he moved with a light- 
ning speed. Now that he was decided in his course of action, this 
little, short-sighted man of thirty-seven years was as courageous 
and strong as a businesslike lion. He had no time to juggle and 
maneuver himself into an advantageous position. He had to attack 
with force with the force of his money. By the end of the year 
he had bought up a huge stretch of claim ground holding reefs 
of proved value. He had already planned the shape that the town 
of Johannesburg must take to suit his own convenience, and he 
bought up every property and building site he could lay his hands 
on. He prepared schemes for the construction of a Stock Exchange 
and an impressive building to house the firm of Barnato Brothers. 
He planned a central market and a garden suburb, and he fixed 
the business center of the town near Barnato Buildings, He 
thought about hospitals and waterworks, and he prepared a draft 
scheme of the limited companies who were to buy all the various 
undertakings from him and manage them. He trusted no one to 

[95] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

carry through any business on his behalf. He attended to every 
deal himself. He worked day and night to buy out Johannesburg. 
But with all his wealth, Barney had not enough money to "corner" 
the Witwatersrand. He succeeded in realizing only half his 
ambition. He became part master of the Rand, but at least he 
had the satisfaction of knowing that he was the largest individual 
holder of mining claims and real estate in the country. 

Probably, if Barnato had gone to the Rand a few months earlier, 
his money would have gone further and bought more. As it was, 
though, he arrived in a boom period when prices were high. 
Booms in Johannesburg were, and are today, as unreliable and as 
unstable as the favorite in the Derby. The slightest optimism, 
based on no good reason at all, would send prices soaring. The 
smallest headache would send them slumping. If an operator 
had had a good lunch and felt breezy and cheerful, the market 
would rise. There would be a boom. If the operator had had a 
bad lunch and felt liverish, prices would drop and there would 
be a slump. When the industry was faced with real difficulties 
such as it was confronted with before the introduction of the Mac- 
Arthur-Forrest process, then the consequent and natural reaction 
of the market became not a slump, but a crisis. 

Today in Johannesburg the Stock Market is as sensitive as a 
nicely brought-up maiden on her wedding night. A fraud charge 
in the local law courts, the inability of the Government to work 
out a legible formula for mining taxation, Mussolini in Italy, 
Hitler in Germany, and Chamberlain in England will make the 
market tremble and vibrate with uncertainty. An operator who 
has had a good lunch and feels cheerful and optimistic can still 
work wonders on the Stock Exchange. If, like Barney Barnato, 
he has a pronounced flair for manipulating the market, and is not 
handicapped with scruples, he can even beat Mussolini to it, and 
send the market bounding high. The booms and slumps con- 
tinue, of course, but today in Johannesburg, when there is not a 
boom in progress, the position is immediately regarded as a slump* 
There appears to be no such state as normality on the Rand. 

Barnato's heavy purchases in Johannesburg and along the Reef 

[96] 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

in 1888 led the industry to believe that the diamond king from 
Kimberley knew something which they did not know. They 
thought Barnato had something up his sleeve, that he was buying 
with a purpose, that he was "in on the ground floor," as they put it. 
When he had spent two million pounds in two months on proper- 
ties of one sort and another, they were certain that he had some 
very special information about the Reef, and they followed him 
blindly and bought heavily. Naturally, the boom was stimulated, 
and, more naturally still, the boom was followed by a slump. This 
was just about the time that Kruger was being harassed by de- 
mands from Johannesburg for railways, and was stubbornly re- 
fusing to give in. The slump continued. But when a few months 
later the mines were confronted with the problem of how to obtain 
free gold from the pyritical ore, the slump immediately became a 
crisis. The Rand became panic-stricken, and prices dropped with 
a clatter as nervous, discouraged men sold out their interests and 
left the town. Barnato had been caught both ways. He had 
bought either too late or too early. But he did not mind. He 
moved about the frightened town with a strange cheerfulness. He 
built his Barnato Buildings. He built his Stock Exchange and his 
Market Hall. He laid out his suburbs into streets and plots ready 
for purchasers. Prices continued to fall about his ears. But 
Barney was confident and optimistic. He tried to instill this 
confidence into the population of the town. He gave his reasons 
for his belief in the security of the Rand when his wife laid the 
foundation stone of Barnato Buildings. 

"I tell you here and now," he said, "that I have never made any 
mistake in speculation or in the investment of money in my lif e." 

He hadn't made a mistake this time, either, for when the crisis 
came to an end, the money from his mines and his suburbs and 
his market rolled in a rich stream into his banking account. 

Barney Barnato, unlike his successors, never pretended that he 
was anything else but a humble, illiterate Jew from the backwash 
of London. At the height of his success he remained a simple little 
man, with a good heart, a quick smile and a conscience that was 
not easily bruised. He would wander round the streets of Johau- 

[97] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

nesburg, in shabby, ill-fitting clothes that made him appear more 
like a traveling peddler than the first millionaire on the Rand. 

On every street corner he would stop to talk to some friend or 
another about business. He was "Barney" to everyone. In his 
office he was cold and dangerous. Outside in the street or in the 
bars he was generous and warm-hearted, when he had the money. 
This was seldom. The little millionaire was in the habit of for- 
getting to carry any money about with him. It was not just a 
convenient sort of trick: it was a genuine carelessness. He would 
meet a friend on the pavement corner, pat him on the shoulder 
and take him off to have a drink. And when the barmaid an- 
nounced the bill, Barney would put his hand in his pocket, bring 
it out empty, and apologetically ask his friend to settle the account. 
Time and time again this would happen. Barney never seemed 
to have a shilling to jingle with a penny in his pocket. 

Of course, he always promised to refund these small amounts, 
but he always forgot, and in the end his co-drinkers grew wise. 
They flatly refused to lend him a few shillings, but they willingly 
offered him ten or twenty pounds instead. They knew he would 
remember to repay any substantial sum of money, but they closed 
his credit account for small amounts. So Barney Barnato wandered 
round the town which he almost owned, a beggar for shillings, a 
millionaire for pounds. There are men in Johannesburg today 
who will tell you that they once lent Barnato a pound and never 
got it back. They don't seem to know whether to be glad or sorry 
about it, either. 

At night, when the thick dark sky enveloped the town in a 
heavy blackness, when men wandered about the streets with 
lanterns to guide them, Barney Barnato could be found entertain- 
ing the diggers and the tradesmen in the local music-hall, where 
the air was thick with smoke and the dissolute smell of whisky 
that had been swallowed, and where the prostitutes of the town 
paraded in single file like mannequins before attaching themselves 
to an audience which had always left its wife respectably at home. 
Barney had made professional progress since his conjuring days 
in Kimherlcy. Then, as an insignificant dealer, he had merely 

[98] 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

sung topical songs and peppered his act with a few tricks. Now, 
as a financial magnate, he had plunged himself into the realms 
of higher art, by playing melodrama. Matthias, in The Bells y was 
his favorite part, and the audience loved it. They encouraged him 
with loud cheers, vibrant criticism, and comments of the most 
topical nature, as Matthias strutted the boards with his face 
decorated by the stuffing of a discarded mattress which was meant 
to represent a beard. Barney took his acting seriously, though, 
and when at last he cast himself for Othello, he expected the 
audience to take him seriously too. 

The house was full, the air was rancid, and the women settled 
themselves down on the hard chairs to an evening of complete dis- 
comfort the night that Barney Barnato played the Moor. There 
was silence when the little Jew appeared with his face smeared in 
soot. But when he began to declaim the lines of Shakespeare in 
his Cockney-cum-Hebrew accent, it was too much for Benny Hart, 
who was sitting in the front row. He laughed out loud. 

Othello stopped in his eloquence. 

Then the Moor strode to the edge of the stage, and glared 
fiercely at the offender. 

"Benny Hart! Benny Hart! You just wait till I get through 
with this," he said. "I'll make you laugh on the other side of 
your mouth." 

There was silence for the rest of the show. Benny Hart did 
not wait. 

In the center of the growing town of Johannesburg, the firm of 
Barnato Brothers continued to prosper. Barney's boast that he 
had never made a false speculation was strictly accurate up till 
then. Everything he did at this time was right for him. Every 
enterprise he touched made money. He employed his natural 
cunning as a manipulator on the Stock Exchange, and he became 
such an important operator that every scheme and every venture 
on the market had, of necessity, to take Barnato into consideration. 

The force of his money made him an invaluable ally, and a 
disastrous enemy to other operators. If he so desired, he could 
build up any venture into a firm success; if it suited him, he could 

[99] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

crash any scheme, no matter how good it was, with the sheer 
weight of his resources. The result was that he had to be consulted 
and let in on every new deal before it could be floated, and he 
made more money sitting quietly in his office, building up or 
breaking the plans of other operators, than he ever made on the 
diamond fields of Kimberley. The Stock Exchange he had built 
was molded by his deft fingers to any shape he fancied. The 
power of the house of Barnato seemed fathomless. 

Barney worked day and night with an unhealthy energy. No 
proposition was too small for him to consider; no scheme was too 
big for him to tackle. All was fish that came to his net as long as 
they could be turned into goldfish. And no man could cheat him. 
Barney had lived long enough on the diamond diggings and the 
goldfields to know all about crooked deals and underhand busi- 
ness, and anyone who tried such tricks on the little man soon 
found that they had made an uncomfortable mistake. 

He had always made it an unbreakable rule to attend to the 
important side of his business himself, but at last he found that 
even his unusual energy was exhaustible. When he reached the 
point where he could no longer hold the reins himself, he sent to 
England for his two young nephews to join him. They were 
the sons of his sister, and he was devoted to them both. The 
brothers were Woolf and Solly Joel. The two young men arrived 
on the Rand and were immediately introduced into the firm of 
Barnato Brothers. They made apt pupils, and in a short while 
they had borrowed enough of their uncle's skill to be made 
directors of this important financial house. 

In the meantime, Barney was engaging in a friendly battle with 
Paul Kruger. Like his rival, J. B. Robinson, he had decided early 
in his Rand career that it would be more profitable to be a friend 
of Kruger than an enemy, and so, like the Snark-hunters, he set 
out to charm the old man "with smiles and soap." Curiously 
enough, Kruger liked the little financier. He liked Barney's direct, 
businesslike manner. He respected his shrewdness, he admired 
his ability; but, above all, the President appreciated the fact that 
Barney was not a critic and a hater of the Dutch peopk and the 

[100] 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

Republic. He was not always grousing and nagging and com- 
plaining. And so the two men the big grim Boer and the little 
foreign financier spent many an hour on the veranda of the low 
white house in Pretoria. Barnato was genuinely sympathetic to- 
ward the Dutch people of the country. He had a sneaking ad- 
miration for the President in his attitude over the dynamite 
concession, because, he argued, if Kruger was clever enough to 
extort money out of the mining population, he deserved to make 
a profit. 

He was not personally interested in the franchise question, be- 
cause this was not a matter involving money, and although he was 
proud of having been born in England, Barnato understood and 
upheld Kruger's attitude over the franchise. 

"The Transvaal Government," he said, "is like no other govern- 
ment in the world. It is, indeed, not a government at all, but an 
unlimited company of some twenty thousand shareholders, which 
has been formed to exploit a large territory, and after being unable 
for thirty years to pay any dividend, or even to pay its clerks, 
suddenly struck it rich. There was neither capital nor skill in the 
company itself for development, and so it leased the ground to 
those who had both. They had a hard time in the early years, 
and Kruger thinks they are entitled to all they can get now. That 
is all right, and quite in my line. If I had a company going on all 
right, and shareholders satisfied, do you suppose I would do any- 
thing that would bring in a lot of fresh shareholders?" 

That, then, was his attitude over the matter of representation in 
Johannesburg in the government of the country. But he was less 
sympathetic when it came to the question of railway communica- 
tion, because here was an issue that affected him financially, and 
nothing must be allowed to interfere with the profits of Barnato 
Brothers. So he spent more time than he liked to afford in dashing 
over to Pretoria by coach to argue with Kruger. When at last the 
President succumbed to the overwhelming forces round him, when 
at last the railway line was built from Delagoa Bay, Barney 
Barnato believed that this came as the result of his influence with 
the President. Now, for the first time, he began to think that his 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

money could buy any man in the world, and could yield any 
desired effect. 

Money was power. 

Money could move mountains and work miracles. And the 
more he imbibed this doctrine, the more jealous he became of his 
wealth, the more fearful he grew of losing his grip, the harder 
he worked to build up his mountain of pounds. 

After the Delagoa Bay line had been formally opened, Barney 
did not stop visiting Kruger. He went now to argue that the 
rates should be reduced, for he was still put to some financial 
discomfort by Kruger's tariffs. But before he could test out his 
power with the President, the Jameson Raid had occurred. 
Barnato had been careful not to become involved in any way with 
the Reform Committee. He was one of the few men in Johannes- 
burg who did not reveal any sympathy toward the "Reformers," 
nor did he join their movement. 

But the after-effects of the Raid brought Barney storming and 
swearing with indignation to Kruger's house. His nephew Solly 
had been arrested. At first Barney was tranquilly resigned to his 
nephew's arrest. It was not, he thought, of any great importance, 
for the Reform Committee would be charged with treason to the 
Republic, and this charge, under the Gold Law, was a petty offense. 
It almost served Solly right for being such a naughty boy. Barney 
did not worry any further. But the night before the trial the 
whole Committee of Reformers pleaded guilty, and this greatly 
angered Barney, who declared that they had played right into 
the hands of the prosecutors. The prisoners were duly tried, not 
under the Gold Law, but with the rusty machinery of the Roman 
Dutch Law, and Solly Joel was sentenced to two years' imprison- 
ment. 

It was then that Barney Barnato went mad with fury. He 
started in the courtroom by shouting abuse at the judge. Outside 
he yelled his opinion of the judge, of Kruger, of the law, to an 
appreciative crowd, and then he dashed off to Pretoria to swear 
and shout his defiance in Kruger's face. 

His nephew, the nephew of Barney Barnato, had been sent to 

[102] 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

jail for two years. He addressed Kruger in every term of abuse 
he had ever heard, and there was a fine selection. He called the 
President by every name except Your Honor. He swore and 
shouted and shook his fists. And then he told Kruger what he 
intended to do. If, he threatened, if the sentences on the Reform 
Committee were not commuted, if all the prisoners were not 
released within a fortnight, he, Barney Barnato, would close 
down every one of his mines, and would throw out of work more 
white men than the Republic had burghers. 

But Kruger, the lion tamer, was not easily frightened by a litde 
foreigner. He seemed unimpressed by Barney's threats. One 
good punch on the jaw would have sent the man from Johannes- 
burg flying. But Kruger did nothing except look surprised and 
dignified. He had litde opportunity of speaking because Barney 
hardly paused for breath. He meant to teach Kruger a lesson. He 
meant to demonstrate his power to the whole Republic. 

The next morning, to show he was in earnest, he gave every one 
of his many thousand employees a fortnight's notice, and he 
suspended all work. Just before the fortnight was up, Barnato 
went back to see Kruger. 

The President had already decided to make use of the sympathy 
of the European world, and had determined to play the role of 
the oppressed, ill-treated martyr. He had already made up his 
mind that it would be a splendid and noble gesture to commute 
the sentences imposed upon the Reform Committee. He was 
neither impressed nor influenced by Barnato's threats, but when 
Barney went to see him a second time, Kruger thought it advisable 
to let the financier think what he wished. He suggested that 
Barnato should extend the notice to his employees for another 
fortnight. Before this period had expired all the prisoners, except 
the two conscientious objectors, had been released. 

It is interesting to speculate on the action Barnato would have 
taken had Kruger called his bluff. Barnato was deadly serious 
when he warned the President that he would shut down every 
concern bearing his name, but this warning was extended during 
the height of his temper. It would have been a living death to 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

Barnato to put an end to his business, and thus kill the only 
interest he had in life. The time was not yet ripe for suicide. 

On the liberation of the Reform Committee, Barney was more 
convinced than ever that he was the only man who could dictate 
terms to the President. 

Money was power. 

He could knock over any obstacle that stood in his way. He 
could command governments, and rule states. He was stronger 
than a king. He was a dangerous menace, an invaluable and un- 
beatable ally. He was power. 

His money slowly began to eat its way into his heart and brain. 
He thought of nothing else but how to build up and fortify his 
golden strength. His body panted, his mind struggled to capture 
and hold more wealth. 

And then gradually, almost imperceptibly, an indefinable 
change seemed to take place in his world. A few months after 
the Jameson Raid the market was threatened with a slump. For 
once, Barney could not understand why this should be. Large 
blocks of shares from some unknown quarter were thrown on to 
the market, and he could not discover where they came from. 
He could not find the hole to stop the leak. He tried to arrest the 
slump, and bought heavily to give a lead of confidence. But all 
his strength now seemed to have turned to water. 

He lost three million pounds. 

He had made a mistake in speculation. He had made a mis- 
take in the investment of his money. 

About this time there was a considerable interest among the 
Rand magnates in the newly discovered strike of gold on the 
Buflfelsdorn Mine near Klerksdorp. A leading engineer had re- 
ported to one of the big houses that the Reef on this property was 
both wide and rich, that it was persistent, and that it would 
probably prove the existence of a new Rand. The engineer did 
not add, however, that the Buffelsdorn Reef was cut off under- 
ground by a great wedge of granite which threatened the life of 
the mine. He did not know about this dyke, nor did anyone else 

[104] 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

except one or two men personally interested in the property. 
Barnato came to hear of the engineer's report on Buffelsdorn, and 
bid high against his competitors for the option. Those who knew 
about the dyke, those who realized that this great wall of granite 
had completely displaced the Reef, kept silent. Barney Barnato 
bought the control of Buffelsdorn Mine, and bought himself an- 
other mistake. He lost nearly a million pounds. 

And now, his nerve gave way. 

He grew frightened. He had lost his power to make money. 
Panic and terror seized him. 

Barney Barnato was losing his grip. 

He was losing his money. 

He was losing his strength. 

Losing losing losing 

He was losing his sense of balance. He became morbid and 
neurasthenic. At night he dreamed about money and woke in 
the dark in a cold sweat of agony. Then he was enveloped in a 
fog of delusion and delirium. He had lost all his money. He 
was absolutely penniless. He had nothing. All day, all night 
his mind was nagged and teased and tortured by the thought of 
money. His wife was worried. He showed every sign of a com- 
plete mental breakdown. He had been made gravely ill with 
fear and fancy. 

His nephew Solly was due to sail for England. Barney sud- 
denly announced one morning that he would accompany Solly. 
The calm detached atmosphere of the ship soothed the nervous 
little man. He regained much of his old cheerful self-confidence. 
After a day of gale and storm the sun broke in a cloudless sky as 
the Scot plowed her way toward England. Barney and his nephew 
were walking briskly up and down the deck after lunch. Barney 
had found his old energy once more. His quick, rapid steps tired 
the younger man, and after an hour Solly suggested that they 
should sit down. The deck was empty save for the sleeping figure 
of a ship's officer. 

Barney asked Solly what the time was, in an eager excited voice. 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

It was thirteen minutes past three. He jumped up from his chair. 

He ran to the rails. 

He plunged himself overboard. 

Solly shrieked for help. 

"Murder! murder!" he cried desperately. 

When Clifford, the fourth officer, rushed to his side, he pointed 
to the figure in the water, and begged him to save his uncle. 
Without hesitating, Clifford threw off his coat and jumped into 
the swirling sea. At the warning, "Man overboard," the engines 
were stopped and the lifeboat was lowered. It reached the un- 
conscious figure of Clifford first, and a few yards further on the 
motionless body of Barnato was picked up. Artificial respiration 
was tried for two hours, but with that plunge into the sea, Barnato 
the unbeatable had fallen forever. 

Woolf Joel, and his brother Solly, were now the leading mem- 
bers of the firm of Barnato Brothers. Neither of them had the 
shrewd ability and business genius of their uncle, but neither of 
them was a fool. At least they had the good judgment to surround 
themselves with brilliant men. They employed the finest en- 
gineers, geologists, accountants and scientists that money could 
buy, and they followed the recommendations and observed the 
suggestions of their unobtrusive servants faithfully. 

The house of Barnato prospered exceedingly. Woolf, the elder 
of the two brothers, was greatly liked in Johannesburg. He had 
all the kindness and generosity of Barney Barnato. He was simple 
and quiet, and carried with hitn an air of sincerity and genuine- 
ness which was as noticeable in that town of bluffers and oppor- 
tunists as a road sign in the desert. Solly, on the other hand, had 
inherited his uncle's flamboyance and self-assurance. He had all 
the confidence of the gambler, and not a little of the aggressive- 
ness of the wealthy man. 

Not many months after Barnato's suicide, Solly received an 
anonymous letter. This was not an unusual event, but the letter 
itself, written in a decorative, foreign hand, was not conceived in 
the ordinary mold of threat and demand* 

[106] 




Photo by Elliott & Fry, 



Barney Barnato. 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 
"Solly B. Joel. 

"Sm 5> it ran, "You and yours are now capitalists, /.<?. 
modern brigands who safely plunder the public under the pro- 
tection o public law. More fools the public to have such. 
Well, I also propose for once to be a brigand, but in defiance 
of the law, accepting the consequences willingly. It is the last 
resource of a desperate man whom ruin stares in the face^ 
before seeking the only escape possible from utter misery by 
a bullet. Now, as Fm not the sort of mute character that gives 
up life without a last struggle for success, or, failing that, for 
revenge, I mean to play this last game with fate between 
yourself and me. 

"As I have only my life left to stake in the game ^and that 
not worth having, as matters are now no doubt you'll hardly 
admit the game to be a fair one. But it's the only one open to 
me, in which I must win either a new start or revenge; and 
anyhow it's only fair that you should not always hold all the 
trumps in a high-stakes game, as is your custom in business. 

"This is how the game stands : I must have j 12,000 at once 
or face ruin and disgrace, which I utterly decline to do. But 
if my race is run, so shall yours be! On the word of a man 
who has nothing to fear now from man or devil. In a 
wprd, you shall find me the money that will save me, or come 
with me to explore 'Gehenna.' It's only poetic justice, anyhow. 

"I give you credit for being a hard-headed business maa. 
Now, don't you take me for a mere vulgar blackmailer who is 
trying to frighten you into giving him money, or perhaps a 
harmless madman; either would be a fatal mistake on your 
part. I am remarkably sane, I assure you, but in a desperate 
position, with enough decency left to infinitely prefer oblivion 
to existence as a disgraced pauper, and enough virility not to 
want to die like a hunted rat in a hole alone and unavenged. 
Perhaps you can understand that I think it is not very un- 
natural? 

"Now, use your own judgment, as only you or your very 
nearest will have to bear the consequences. Advice is cheap 
and no one really cares for your safety but yourself, so only 
trust your own judgment. 

"Even the Czar, or President, is at the mercy of a man who 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

is not a fool and is fearless of the consequences, and I must die 
anyhow if you won't help me, so what have I to fear ? 

"All the best police could do is to see your death avenged, 
never prevented, and that trouble I shall save them, as we shall 
die together. I'm not anxious to die, but I'm now ready for it, 
as the only decent way out of it all. So I'm not so very anxious 
about your decision, as long as I'm sure that you will have to 
share my own fate and that I have made sure of, if here, or 
on train, steamer, London or elsewhere. 

"And you will never know who I am till the moment I 
strike, so it's no use for you to bolt It would only hasten the 
end. Now let fate take its course. I am plain with you, so 
that your death shall not be murder, but your own doing, 
really, though I will willingly take all the blame for removing 
you to a better world, this or the other side of the River Styx, 
where Barnato may be glad to see you again. 

"Anyhow, you'll leave your money to console your friends 
here, while I only have debts. So you'll have, after all, the 
advantage over me. But I advise you to keep cool and consider 
well what you are going to do. Any false move cannot be 
undone, and must be fatal. 'Kismet/ says the Turk, and I, 
too. Let fate take its course. 

"If you are fool enough to look to the police for help and 
protection in order to save your money for your heirs, in that 
case neither you nor I need to trouble any more about paltry 
cash that's one last comfort. On the other hand, if you 
should understand your own interest, and my determination 
more thoroughly than I expect from my knowledge of you, 
you will be willing to comply with my demand, and lend 
me the money I need to recover my position. For I mean to 
repay, for the sake of my own satisfaction, not as an excuse 
now, only putting it as a loan. 

"If it was possible to tell you now openly who I am, you 
would probably be convinced that every word I say here I 
mean to keep, even to the return of the sum demanded. 

"If you decide to help me with your purse, put a 'personal' 
advertisement in the Star at once, heading it 'Kismet,' and I 
will tell you in another letter how I will arrange to receive the 
money needed. On my part I promise that you will never 

[108] 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

again be asked by me for help, or troubled in any way, and 
that all shall be secret forever. 

"And now, only one more warning. Don't try to be clever 
by making plans to trap me. Don't be persuaded to believe 
clever fools who risk nothing; but believe my word that 
nothing on earth can save you and me from the consequences 
of your own decision. On your own head now be whatever 
happens. Before I can be touched now, by the cleverest police 
or agent, you and I will care nought about it 

"Take your own counsel is all I can honestly say, and re- 
member the moment I know that I am in danger you will 
have signed both our death warrants. 

"Don't play now with our lives. Either act loyally in the 
manner I shall point out to you, or defy me by not taking 
note of my request to answer. You at least are then prepared 
to accept the most I can do, but in trying to escape through the 
hope of catching me by help of the police, you will only force 
on the worst result for you. 

"KISMET." 

Solly Joel did not care for this letter at all. It seemed to him 
to be the work of some foreign criminal, and he was uneasy. The 
character of the writing was Germanic, and the author was either 
serious in his threats or unbalanced in his mind. After reading 
the letter through carefully several times, Joel sent for a detective. 
Joel, Harold Strange, one of the directors of the firm, and the 
plain-clothes man sat in consultation over this strange letter, and 
it was decided that the first step to take was to lure the black- 
mailer out of his anonymity into the light of day. 

The next issue of the Star obediently carried an advertisement 
in the Personal column: 

"KISMET why don't you call and act, and see me as a man ?" 

The same day Solly Joel received another letter written in the 
same flowery, friendly, blackmailing way "Just to make no mis- 
take that he really had received the first." And then a third, and 
a fourth letter came, all demanding twelve thousand pounds, and 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

all promising the consolation of a brotherhood in death. But 
still the blackmailer clung to his identity, and would not be per- 
suaded to reveal himself. Joel put another advertisement in the 
Stan 

"KISMET I cannot correspond with an imaginary individual 
who has not the courage to state his grievance to me personally. 
I am willing to assist if I think it is necessary, but have no 
intention of being spoofed." 

Then Kismet became more brotherly than ever: 

"I like the spirit of your last answer. It's manly and natural 
from your point of view," he said kindly. And then he went 
pn mysteriously to say, "I must trust in the hope that the luck 
of the Barnatos will stand by your side now to help you to 
guess and feel the truth of my words, however strange. For 
certainly I know that the luck of your house is again serving 
you well, again putting a great chance within your grasp, 
if only you are the man to hold it, and make the worst of it. 
Strange but true 

"If you decide to give me the money, I will give you such 
information, absolutely trustworthy, that will enable you to 
double and treble whatever you may be worth now, within a 
year. No one but you of the financiers here knows or shall 
know. I dare not say more, but so far will trust you and the 
sense of your own interest to give you a hint that it spells 
POLITICS " 

The position, now, was growing more dangerous. Kismet had 
stopped his blackmailing tactics, and was now offering to sell 
himself to Joel as a conspirator. His letter carried unwritten hints 
of plots, and schemes, and underhand measures, all of which, he 
was careful to point out, would, with his guidance, bring money 
to the house of Barnato. Politics. The word bristled with menace. 
The Jameson Raid was not yet cold in its ugly grave. The sullen 
hatred directed against Kruger and his Dutch followers had spread 
in Johannesburg like the ominous roll of thunder before a storm. 

[no] 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

Politics. Politics in the hands of a foreign criminal who was even 
now corresponding with Barnato. Blackmail was child's play 
compared with this new development. Solly Joel did not reply to 
Kismet's friendly offer. Another letter came for him. 

" You have made your choice like a fool, at least take the 
consequences like a man now, for nothing on earth will save 
you and yours from your own folly. But as we are to make 
the last experiment from the known to the unknown to- 
getherand good company it will be for you I will now say 
to you 'Good-bye/ without any spite. The gods know best. 
Our race is run. It's over. 

"KISMET." 

Solly Joel, apparently thinking that Kismet's malice was directed 
against him personally, talked the position over with Woolf . Both 
men were anxious now. The open threats, the veiled offers, and 
the mysterious allusions in the letters, made them uncomfortable. 
They determined to bring the blackmailer out of his lair, to dis- 
cover who he was, to learn the strength of his threats, and the 
secret of his business. 

The Star, unconscious of the drama that was threading itself 
through its pages, had a message next day in the jpersonal column 
from Solly Joel: 

"KISMET I refuse to see you: you can see my brother, who 
can do equally as well. Arrange time and place if you mean 
business." 

Kismet did mean business, but he was cautious, and did not 
want to show himself. He wrote another eight letters, during 
which his demand came down from twelve thousand pounds to 
eight thousand pounds, before the meeting with Woolf Joel was 
arranged. 

At the hour appointed for the interview Woolf Joel sat at the 
desk in his office in Barnato Buildings. Harold Strange, his co- 
director, was to receive Kismet before showing him in to Woolf. 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

As the half-hour struck, the blackmailer arrived. He was a tall 
handsome man with straight features, and a defiant, sweeping 
mustache. His attitude was gay and attractive. He talked with 
a pronounced German accent, laughed infectiously and em- 
phasized his Continental manner with graceful, vivid movements 
of his hands. The man had personality. He was not the sinister, 
slimy figure that the Joels had imagined. He was a swaggering, 
swashbuckling, handsome adventurer. He told Strange his name 
was Von Veltheim. But there were a number of other interesting 
points about himself which he did not tell Strange. 

He made himself quite at home in the office, and began to talk 
a great deal in very mysterious terms about "his party," which, he 
said, was engaged in a good cause. The business would not be 
done with a beating of drums and shaking of tambourines, but 
the blow would be struck in the dark. This blow, he intimated in 
a sibilant whisper, would be directed against the Government, 
and thus, he explained carefully, the chief obstacle to progress in 
the country would be removed. 

The others, he said, would be held as hostages and shot with- 
out remorse, if necessary. As little bloodshed would take place as 
possible. Perhaps a few policemen might be killed. 

"Don't you see the advantage you have to gain?" he cried en- 
thusiastically, and he added consolingly, "Our instructions are that 
there shall be as little damage as possible done to property." 

And then Von Veltheim went on to explain how Barnatos could 
make money out of this unnamed proceeding. It was quite simple. 
They could sell their holdings at once at a profit; then, after the 
change of Government had taken place, when prices had dropped 
to rock-bottom, they could buy their stock again. 

"Man!" he cried excitedly, "there are millions in it." 

Woolf Joel and Strange listened quietly to every word that 
Von Veltheim had to say. They discussed the position with ap- 
parent calm, and when it came to the question of money, Woolf 
Joel sparred successfully with Von Veltheim. He asked time to 
consider the matter, and promised to make a firm offer at the next 
meeting with the German, 

[in] 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

It is here that the mystery surrounding the Von Veltheim case 
grows so black as to become impenetrable. It would appear that 
Woolf Joel's proper course at this juncture would have been to 
inform the police and have this common blackmailer arrested. 
He had achieved his purpose in discovering the identity and busi- 
ness of Kismet; he had listened to vague half-spoken schemes of 
bloody treason and organized revolution and, as a lawful citizen 
and head of the most influential business house in the town, his 
normal course of action would be to have the author and originator 
of these criminal plans promptly arrested and locked out of harm's 
way. He might quite legitimately arrange another meeting with 
the sole object, however, of trapping the blackmailer. But Woolf 
Joel did not take the normal procedure. He did not call the 
police, nor did he even advise them as to what was occurring. 
He treated Von Veltheim in a manner which is difficult to under- 
stand. He kept the appointment that he had arranged with Von 
Veltheim. He offered the blackmailer money. And, here again, 
the mystery, the half-formed thoughts, the unspoken word, the 
fog of the unknown flowed from Von Veltheim into the office of 
Barnato, where it hung thickly in the air. What had Woolf Joel 
to fear from this German? Why did he not call in the police? 
Why did he choose to play this dangerous game with the German ? 
What did Von Veltheim say that caught his respect and com- 
manded his attention? What did Woolf Joel have to fear? What 
weapon did Von Veltheim carry to silence the successor of Bar- 
nato? 

Woolf Joel never answered these questions himself. 

Once again the three men met in an office in Barnato Buildings. 
Von Veltheim was aggressive. He wanted his money, and when 
Woolf Joel offered him two hundred pounds, he laughed with 
contempt. Harold Strange sat at JoeFs desk eying the German. 
Woolf Joel was seated in an office chair with his back to the wall. 
Von Veltheim, angry and scornful, stood facing both men. They 
talked hotly and defiantly to one another. Suddenly the Ger- 
man saw Strange's hand creep to his pocket. He stopped in his 
words to tell Strange, in a slow meaning voice that he himself was 

[113] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

an expert shot, an unfailing marksman. Then his eyes turned to 
Joel. The financier was drawing a gun slowly out of his pocket. 
Von Veltheim's eyes flashed back to the desk. He saw Strange. 
He saw a pistol leveled at him. His hand flew to his hip. 

Four shots screamed through the room. 

Harold Strange crawled out from under the desk. There was 
a bullet mark in the wall behind his chair. Von Veltheim stood 
motionless in the middle of the room, his face flushed, one cheek 
smudged with the black powder of a singeing shot. Woolf Joel 
crumpled up in his chair. 

He had been shot dead. 

Kurt von Veltheim was arrested and charged with the murder 
of Woolf Joel. Among other things that he did not tell Harold 
Strange was that his real name was Kurtze, that he was the illegiti- 
mate son of a German baron, and that he had spent his life on the 
wrong side of the boundaries of the law. After he had married a 
woman from Perth, he began his blackmailing career by success- 
fully frightening an acquaintance of his wife into paying him 
seven hundred and fifty pounds "hush" money. Then, finding 
one wife not profitable enough, he secretly "married" a German 
woman in London, obtained one thousand five hundred pounds 
from her and persuaded her to return to Germany at once. He 
committed bigamy a second time when, a year after, he "married" 
a Greek woman and made three hundred pounds profit on the 
deal. But his record was discovered. His last marriage was an- 
nulled, and as a result Von Veltheim hid himself in the East End 
of London under the name of Captain Vincent of the Royal Re- 
serve. 

At this time England was ringing with talk of the Jameson 
Raid, and Von Veltheim sailed for Capetown, where he enlisted as 
a policeman. A few days after he had vanished from London the 
body of a naked man was found floating in the Thames, and was 
identified by his third "wife" as that of her husband. But the 
published picture of the dead man was recognized in South Africa 
as being that of a trooper in the Bechuanaland Border Police, while 
the strangled body was later proved to have been that of a sailor. 



BARNEY BARNATO OF ALDGATE 

Von Veltheim resigned from the police and headed for Johannes- 
burgand for Barnato Buildings. 

The case brought by the South African Republic against Kurt 
von Veltheim on a charge of murdering Woolf Joel must stand in 
the law books of the country as a shining example of legal unsatis- 
faction. The case was thick with unanswered questions and 
unspoken replies. All the mystery and vagueness that had sur- 
rounded Von Veltheim in his dealings with Joel followed the 
accused man into the courts of law. He made a stubborn and fear- 
less witness. The prosecuting counsel, who had that very week 
succeeded a young man named Jan Smuts on his appointment to 
state attorney, battled valiantly with all the forensic weapons at 
his command to obtain direct and lucid replies from the prisoner, 
but he was defeated. Kurt von Veltheim stood his trial enig- 
matically. His answer to the charge of murder was self-defense. 
He had, he claimed, shot at Joel and Strange before they could 
shoot him. During his examination by the prosecutor, Von 
Veltheim insinuated, without being definite in his replies, that he 
had met Barney Barnato earlier in London, and that Barnato had 
arranged for him to come to South Africa to investigate a revolu- 
tion against the Government a professional revolution. 

"What object had Barnato to send for you?" rapped out the 
prosecuting counsel. "What political standing had you?" 

"Oh," replied Von Veltheim coolly, "he did not seek me from 
that sense. He wanted myself and another to meet in the house 
of a friend. There was no particular result except that we ar- 
ranged to meet again, and agreed to keep in touch with him, with 
the object of coming to South Africa eventually just to have a 
look at it; to see the country in order to be able to form an opinion 
if certain eventualities were possible." 

"What eventualities ?" demanded the prosecutor. 

"I decline to answer," said Von Veltheim firmly. "I cannot in- 
criminate myself." 

"From the beginning of the examination in chief you have 
stated you did not come to the country to kill the President or 
any member of the Government?" 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

"No, certainly not. Nothing like that." 

"What was the great crime for which you are afraid?" 

"I am not afraid so much. I have done no great crime, but I have 
friends who are certainly not anxious to have their names men- 
tioned." 

"You need not speak about your friends. What crime are you 
afraid of?" the prosecutor persisted, and Von Veltheim eyed him 
coldly. 

"You may prosecute me," he said. 

"I understand," the prosecutor went on, "I understand you 
conspired with certain persons to commit high treason." 

"Not exacdy," said Von Veltheim, anxious to be correct. "Not 
exactly. I decline to say, but it was possible." 

"What had Barnato got to be afraid of you for?" demanded the 
exasperated prosecutor. 

"He had nothing exactly to fear," said Von Veltheim, "except, 
of course, I presume he would not like it to have been known that 
he was conspiring to bring about some changes here." 

The mystery continued all through the case, which lasted several 
days. It still continues. Von Veltheim's story that Strange had 
fired first, narrowly missing him, that he had recoiled for an in- 
stant, and then, looking straight ahead of him, had seen Woolf 
Joel sitting forward in his chair with an aimed gun, was accepted 
by the jury. They returned a verdict of "Not guilty," 

The judge, in discharging Von Veltheim, made it stingingly 
clear that he disagreed with the finding. The Government, after 
all this talk of treason and President-killing, naturally regarded 
his presence in the Transvaal as dangerous, and they sent Mm over 
the border. He came back. They dumped him in Natal, but the 
fastidious people of this province refused to have him, so the 
Government generously provided him with a free passage to Eng- 
land. He deserted the ship at Capetown and tried to get back to 
the Transvaal, but he was caught and more or less bundled over- 
seas. 

Here, many years afterward, he died, leaving his story only 
half told 

[1*6] 



CHAPTER "V 

KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

THE UNREST, WHICH WAS BORN IN THE MINING CAMP OF 

Johannesburg before the Jameson Raid, had grown steadily with 
the passing of the months, until in 1898 it had reached a formid- 
able size. There was a despairing uneasiness in the town. The old 
blood-and-thunder attitude of the pre-Jameson days had given 
way to a quieter, and naturally more significant, feeling of resent- 
ment. There was an atmosphere of hopelessness and helplessness 
in the town. Kruger seemed to hold Johannesburg by the throat. 
His great strong hands were strangling the life out of the town, 
and were making the limp body in his power dance grotesquely 
to the macabre tune he whistled. It seemed to the "foreigners" 
that this man, this leader of the Dutch, this President of the State 
in which they lived, had, at last, got his own way. He had at last 
beaten them down before they could beat him down. The taxa- 
tion he imposed upon them was telling heavily on their strength. 
They had no vote; they were too weak to retaliate, but they had 
their voices left, and they raised these in a high-pitched, hysterical 
scream against the Government. To keep them quiet Kruger ap- 
pointed an Industrial Commission ostensibly to investigate and re- 
port upon the economic conditions on the Rand, but this report, 
together with its recommendations, vanished into thin air. 

Kruger did not mean to relinquish his hold on Johannesburg. 
This town of traitors, conspirators and revolutionaries must be 
kept firmly in check. He could not afford to allow them any 
rope. They would hang the President and every Dutchman in the 
country if he did. But, on the other hand, he did not intend to 
treat the foreigners as they had treated him. He did not intend to 
ride into Johannesburg with a force of mounted men, and shoot 
them into subjection, as they had planned to shoot the Boers. He 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

meant to use the weapon they feared and hated most the money 
weapon. He would make them pay until they were exhausted. 
Economic sanctions. A ban on big profits. 

Thus, with the imposition of increasingly heavy taxation, with 
the use of high railway rates, and with the unassailable power of 
the President, Johannesburg was slowly , brought to a state of 
financial frustration. Several of the poorer mines had to shut 
down in the face of heavy costs. The expenses involved in develop- 
ing deep properties were deferred, and the Rand settled down to 
another and more serious depression. The figure of Kruger had 
altered in the eyes of Johannesburg from a beastly Dutchman to a 
fiendish tyrant. And there appeared no way of routing him. 

The mining industry viewed the position in a hopeless, melan- 
choly light. They saw Kruger standing over them impassive, de- 
termined, omnipotent. The slump became a crisis, A leading 
article in the Star, the evening paper of the town, sounded the 
attitude of the Rand: 

"There is scarcely a single tradesman, artisan, mechanic, 
merchant, clergyman, or other authority to whom we have 
appealed for information who does not spontaneously attrib- 
ute the present calamitous state of affairs to the failure of the 
Government to fulfil the promise of the Industrial Commis- 
sion, and to inaugurate that era of progressive reform of which 
it has so frequently given promise. The spurious principles 
imported into the system of fiscal administration adopted 
in this State react in every conceivable direction on the trade 
and commerce and industry of the country, with the in- 
evitable result. The country's prosperity, being built up on an 
insecure and illogical basis, the prosperity and well-being of its 
component parts are equally precarious and unreliable, just 
as a structure erected on a rotten foundation is ever an unstable 
and a tottering fabric. 

"The individual misery and hopelessness which we see re- 
flected in every walk of life are the direct result of this general 
rottenness and unstability; and it is the authors of our present 
system of State economics who are to be held severally and 
collectively liable, from the highest to the lowest, from the 

[118] 



KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

President to the most inactive member of the Volksraad, as 
the authors of the shocking destitution which prevails 
throughout Johannesburg and it suburbs among the skilled 
and the unskilled, the educated and the uneducated, the de- 
luded alien and the benighted Boer." 

The sluggishness of the mining industry, its fear of the future, 
and its unwillingness to incur the expense of development, had 
affected the trade and commerce of the town very materially. 
Business was at a standstill. Hundreds of people were thrown out 
of work, and here on the Rand, on the richest and most fruitful 
goldfields of the world, soup kitchens were opened to alleviate dis- 
tress. 

The general protest against Kruger's taxation on the mines was 
well summed up by J. P. Fitzpatrick, one of the leading indus- 
trialists of the town, when he gave evidence before the abortive 
Industrial Commission. Fitzpatrick pointed out that the revenue 
of the State in 1885 was one hundred seventy-seven thousand eight 
hundred and seventy-six pounds, and twelve years later, in 1897, 
it had jumped to four million eight hundred eighty-six thousand 
pounds. 

"Well," he said, "the population has only increased in that 
time from 50,000 to 250,000, but where the people paid three 
pounds and fifteen shillings per head then, they now pay 
seventeen pounds and thirteen shillings. The taxation per 
head of the industrial population comes out at twenty-three 
pounds per head. It is quite impossible for a community to 
keep on contributing like this. That amo'int is not paid out 
of our earnings, because we don't earn enough to pay it. 
When we have paid our working expenses, there is not enough 
difference to pay the taxation. Therefore the money must be 
paid out of capital. The money that is our point is being 
stopped from going into the ground. 

"All the money that we have had to pay three million 
pounds to the Railways, and the three million pounds which 
the State has unnecessarily had out of us has come from 
European capital, and ought to have gone into the ground. 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

"We lay such stress on the question of dynamite and coal 
because they are such clear cases that it is impossible to pass 
them over. But the real pinch comes with the great items of 
the railways and general taxation." 

Fitzpatrick went on to show that the mining industry had to 
pay the sum of twenty-eight million pounds for such things as 
transit dues, coal, dynamite, imports, wages, railways and divi- 
dends, while the State produced only eight million pounds. 

Kruger was unimpressed; he harbored neither sorrow nor re- 
morse for the plight of the gold-mining industry. His reply, 
though never spoken, was clearly understandable. If the mining 
industry did not like the position, why did they not leave ? He 
knew all the answers too. He knew one or two points that neither 
Mr. Fitzpatrick nor any other mining man had bothered to em- 
phasize. He knew, for example, that since the year 1887 the 
year that Fitzpatrick had taken as his starting point in his argu- 
ment against Kruger's taxation the gold production of the Wit- 
watersrand had increased from eighty-one thousand forty-five 
pounds to fifteen million one hundred forty-one thousand three 
hundred and seventy-six pounds. That was why the foreigners 
did not care to leave the Republic. Well, with the large increase 
in the output of gold such as this, there must be a corresponding 
increase in taxation. The miners must pay for the State. 

The industry found that this presidential attack on its finances 
was far more painful than an attack on their physiques. They 
wept loudly. They met together to rub their bruises, to mouth 
their hatred of the bully who had set upon them, and to talk 
vaguely, but none the less emphatically, of revenge. The depres- 
sion continued. 

One December night in 1898, a man named Edgar assaulted an- 
other man called Forster and left him lying in the street. Edgar 
went home to his supper. The police were advised, and after de- 
bating among themselves as to whether they could arrest Edgar 
without a warrant, they decided that they could, and they set off 
for his house. One of the policemen attempted to open the door, 

[120] 



KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

but Edgar actively resisted arrest. The policeman finally managed 
to get the door open, but not before he had shot at and killed Ed- 
gar. At the trial, the policeman was acquitted. 

This was the signal for an outburst of fury on the part of the 
Uitlanders, who maintained loudly that the security of the British 
residents in the Transvaal was in jeopardy. And now that they 
had been given a start by the Edgar incident, they raced off again 
on their old troublesome round of complaints. There was educa- 
tion. There was franchise. There was municipal government 
for Johannesburg. And, of course, there was the dynamite con- 
cession. The Star was again true spokesman of the Rand on this 
point: 

"While the President remains the unyielding apologist and 
defender and champion of this iniquitous monopoly, any 
prospect of a final satisfactory solution seems well-nigh impos- 
sible, says the paper of this date. 

"The juggling which took place in respect of the Industrial 
Commissioner's report conjured into thin air has, it seems, 
been repeated in respect of the Legal Commission's report 
on the dynamite monopoly. Fifteen or sixteen months ago, 
in authorising a reduction of ten shillings per case on the cost 
of explosives, of which the Government should contribute five 
shillings (its ewe lamb) and the Company the remaining five 
shillings, the Volksraad authorised an investigation of a Legal 
Commission, of which the then State Attorney, Mr. Greg- 
orowski, should constitute one member, assisted by such emi- 
nent lawyers as he might select Of the findings of that 
original Commission not a trace exists to-day. Mr. Gregorow- 
ski was elevated to the Bench, and his report never saw the 
light of day. Doctor Reitz became State Secretary, and he also 
dropped out. The investigation that these gentlemen con- 
ducted was thorough and painstaking. Yet their report is 
quietly juggled away into space, and in place of it we have an 
"opinion" from the new and youthful State Attorney of whose 
scholarly attainments and keen patriotism the President is un- 
failing of loudly expressed appreciation. But why this re- 
luctance to produce those other reports which, on the State 

[121] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

Attorney's own admission, are not in agreement with his 
own?" 

The youthful and scholarly State Attorney was a young man 
named Jan Smuts. 

The unrest on the Rand grew fiercer, quicker, stronger. It 
spread along the Ridge, fastening on the franchise here, on 
education there, on monopolies and taxation, on the fact that 
Dutch was the official language on every action, every word 
emanating from the low whitewashed house in Pretoria, the seat 
of Government. The uproar grew louder. The voice of com- 
plaint and protest, of anger and hatred grew shriller. The Reef 
was one long stretch of furious sound. And in the background 
the thud of the stamps and batteries crushing and grinding 
the gold out of the earth was lost to all ears save those of the 
President 

Then the scene changed. It switched from the turbulence of 
the Rand to the dimly lighted, dignified floor of the House of 
Commons. Westminster, March, 1899. 

Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett was addressing the House. He had 
chosen as his subject the land across the Vaal, six thousand miles 
away. Sir Ellis began by enumerating the grievances under which 
the Uitlanders of the South African Republic labored. He ac- 
cused the Government of failure to look after the interests of Brit- 
ish residents in the Transvaal. He appealed to the Government 
to take action to procure the redress of these grievances. 

Mr. Chamberlain, in reply, asked what it was that Sir Ellis 
wished the Government to do. Did he wish the Government to 
insist on reforms, failing which they should go to war with the 
Transvaal? He believed that this was the honorable Member's 
object. Mr. Chamberlain questioned, however, Sir Ellis's title 
to speak on behalf of the Uitlanders. The Uitlanders, he imagined, 
would be the first to quarrel with the Government if they should 
adopt such a course, and would inquire why they interfered with- 
out being asked; or they might complain that the Government had 
interfered in the wrong way. 

[122] 




00 

oc 



<U 
rj 
5 

"o 



KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

Mr. Chamberlain, however, admitted that there was a great deal 
in Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett's statements which was perfectly 
true. President Kruger, three years ago, had made certain prom- 
ises, none o which had yet been fulfilled. The grievances of the 
Uitlanders had been increased rather than diminished. Nothing 
had been done by the Transvaal Government in the matter of 
providing education for the Uitlanders on any adequate scale, 
nor had any action been taken to give Johannesburg mu- 
nicipal government. Neither had anything been done to re- 
lieve the burden of the dynamite monopoly, or to extend the 
franchise. 

The situation, he added, constituted a real danger, and the Eng- 
lish Government was watching carefully, but had full confidence 
in Sir Alfred Milner. 

The proceedings of the House were reported in exactly the 
words used above, and were published in this form in Johannes- 
burg, This report was to the Rand as smelling-salts to a fainting 
woman. It made the people of Johannesburg feel better. It made 
them feel strong and powerful. They were convinced now of 
their justification in complaining. Had not the House of Com- 
mons itself, the heart of die great British Government, taken the 
matter up ? Had not Joseph Chamberlain himself told the nation 
that Her Majesty's Government was watching the situation care- 
fully? Great statesmen such as these did not idle away their time 
talking of worthless subjects. They discussed only those matters 
vital to the British Empire. They were watching the Transvaal 
carefully, then. It was vital to them. The Rand had the power 
of the British Government behind it. 

The noise and the clamor on the Ridge of the White Waters 
grew louder and more certain. There was no sound from Pretoria. 

Immediately after the acquittal of the policeman in the Edgar 
case, a petition to Queen Victoria was organized, and this was 
signed by 21,684 Uitlanders. It was handed to Conynghame 
Greene, the British Agent at Pretoria, and was forwarded to Lon- 
don. It gave a very clear statement of the attitude and demands 
of the Rand. 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

"For many years," the petition declared, "discontent has 
existed among the Uitlanders, the majority of whom are Brit- 
ish subjects. The Uitlanders possess much of the land and 
most of the wealth and intelligence of the country, but have 
no voice in the Government. In spite of the promises made 
by the Transvaal Government, and of largely signed petitions 
addressed to the President, no practical reforms have been 
given. 

"In 1895 the discontent culminated in an armed insurrec- 
tion which was unsuccessful. The people then placed them- 
selves in the hands of H. M. High Commissioner, and Presi- 
dent Kruger promised reforms. Since then, however, the 
position has become worse, and legislation has been un- 
friendly. Instances are: The Press Law and the Aliens 
Expulsion Law. The Press Law gives the President despotic 
power which he has used arbitrarily. The Aliens Expulsion 
Law permits expulsion of British subjects at the will of the 
President without the right to appeal to the High Court 
Burghers cannot be expelled; this is contrary to the Conven- 
tion. 

"The Municipal Government granted to Johannesburg is 
worthless, and the municipality is entirely subject to the will 
of the Government. Half the Councillors must be burghers, 
though the numbers of burghers and Uitlanders are as 1039 
and 23,503. 

"The Government has rejected the report of the Industrial 
Commission, composed of its own officials, and instead of 
reducing taxation has increased it. 

"The High Court, the only remaining safeguard of the 
rights of British subjects, has been reduced to a condition of 
subservience to the Government, in spite of the protests of the 
judges. 

"The revenues of the country have been diverted from their 
use for the building of forts at Pretoria and Johannesburg 
for the purpose of terrorising British subjects, and race feeling 
is accentuated thereby. 

'The police, being drawn exclusively from among the 
burghers, and being ignorant and prejudiced, are a danger to 
the community. Trial by jury exists in name, but as jurors 



KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

must be burghers, justice cannot be obtained in cases where 
it is possible to raise racial issues. 

"Public indignation was at last aroused by the Edgar in- 
cident, and especially by the racial favouritism displayed by 
the Public Prosecutor. A petition to Her Majesty was pre- 
sented by 4000 British subjects, but rejected on account of 
technical informalities. For taking a leading part in the pres- 
entation of this petition, Messrs. Dodd and Webb were ar- 
rested under the Public Meetings Act, and released on one 
thousand pounds bail five times the amount required from 
the policeman Jones. 

"A meeting within a closed place, permitted by law, and 
expressly sanctioned by the Government, was called by the 
South African League on January i4th. This meeting was 
broken up by an armed and organised band of Boers and 
police in plain clothes, led by Government officials. The 
police refused to interfere when called upon, and fraternised 
with the rioters. The behaviour of British subjects was quiet 
and orderly, and they did not retaliate, preferring to lay their 
grievances before Her Majesty. No arrests have been made 
of those officials who were responsible, or of other rioters. 

"The condition of the British subjects has become nearly 
intolerable. They have been prevented, by the direct act of 
the Government, through their officials, from ventilating their 
grievances, and laying them before Her Majesty. 

"Wherefore the petitioners pray that Her Majesty will ex- 
tend her protection to them, cause an inquiry to be made into 
their grievances, and will secure the reform of abuses com- 
plained of, and obtain substantial guarantees from the Trans- 
vaal Government for the recognition of their rights." 

Kruger knew all about the petition to the Queen. He had also 
read the report of the House of Commons debate. Like Joseph 
Chamberlain he, too, thought that the situation constituted a real 
danger. Like the British Government, Paul Kruger was watching 
carefully. He saw the noisy restlessness of the Rand. He saw 
the quiet power and the huge strength of England. He realized 
that he must never have the force that was Great Britain descend 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

upon the lands of his Republic. Now, when the sympathy of 
England was slowly stirring, now was the time to cede a point to 
the Uitlanders, to stop their shouting, to quiet their roars, and to 
send back to its den the swift sentiment that England mistook for 
justice. 

Kruger decided to reduce the franchise by five years. First he 
toured the country to placate his Boers. Then he visited Johannes- 
burg, and in an address to the people he told them a little of his 
thoughts, something of his beliefs, nothing of his fears. 

"You all know," he said simply, "that when we first dis- 
covered these goldfields, and they began to be worked, the 
franchise was given to anyone who lived here a year. But 
when from all countries and all nations people began to stream 
in, it became our duty to prevent the old burghers from being 
overwhelmed. I would not have been worthy of my position 
if I had allowed the newcomers to immediately sweep away 
and overwhelm the old inhabitants of this country. Then 
the law was made that after two years' residence a man could 
get himself naturalised. Then he would have a vote. After 
two more years* residence that is, four years in all he can 
be elected a member of the Second Volksraad, and from that 
time he would still have to wait ten years before he could have 
the full franchise of the country: and the reason of that was 
that at the time that this law was made the original inhabitants 
of this country the pilgrim fathers were but a handful, 
whereas there were coming thousands and thousands of new 
people into the country. 

"But then the law was so stringent that a man had to wait 
twenty years before he could become a full burgher of this 
country; but now it is fourteen years in all. When we made 
that Franchise Law, the burghers who had the right of voting 
were only about 12,000, so that it would be very easy, by other 
strangers coming in and getting the franchise, immediately 
to swamp those original inhabitants; but now those original 
inhabitants and their descendants amount to about 30,000 or 
40,000. 

"Therefore I wish now to propose to the Volksraad to di- 



KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

minish the time for giving the right of voting, and to reduce 
it by five years. 

"You must understand thoroughly," Kruger went on, 
"that we do not allow bigamy in this country. By speaking 
of bigamy, I am referring to die Government of this country, 
and of the British and other Governments. A man cannot 
marry his 4 second wife; he must first get a divorce from his 
first wife. 

"I am referring to naturalisation. A man cannot serve two 
masters, and if he has two wives he will despise the one and 
respect the other. Therefore if a man wants to make this 
country his home and become a burgher, he must first be- 
come naturalised. If he does not desire to do that, and wishes 
to remain a stranger, I will treat him as a stranger should be 
treated with all hospitality, so long as he remains obedient 
to the law. I will" (this must have been said with a grim 
smile) "I will help him to make money and get on in this 
country, and live comfortably, and when he goes away, 
having perhaps made enough money, I shall always be sorry 
if he has loyally behaved himself, and should he wish to re- 
turn, we will always receive him with open arms." 

Kruger went on to chide his audience, as a mother might chide 
i mischievous child, about the petition to the Queen. 

"I hear it stated," he said, "that I do not redeem my promises 
and I deny it. After the Jameson Raid I said I wished to for- 
give everyone except the leaders, who should be punished. 
In the second proclamation I said if they would give me a 
chance, I wished to forgive and forget, and I have acted in 
accordance. But there are others who have not helped in that 
direction. They make a noise and a trouble, and my people 
say, 'You have not done as you have promised.' But if you 
will cooperate and work along with the Government and the 
Volksraad, then such things will not occur again." 

Kruger's address to the people of Johannesburg seemed to ease 
the tension a little, for negotiations were immediately started for 
a conference between representatives of the mines and the Governr 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

ment in which the franchise, the dynamite monopoly and taxation 
were to have figured largely. The miners and working men of the 
town wanted an open-air meeting in which to consider and discuss 
these negotiations. 

But here Kruger made a very stupid mistake. He expressly 
forbade the holding of such a meeting. This angered the miners, 
but did not deter them. They did meet, first in the Recreation 
Hall at the Village Deep Mine, and then, as the idea spread like 
butter on a hot plate, they met in every hall and on every mine 
along the full length of the Reef. Every meeting was packed to 
the doors with Uitlanders. The men were excited, angry, senti- 
mental. They talked hotly against Kruger and lovingly about 
Great Britain. They cheered and hissed at the right moments, and 
they worked up an atmosphere of such enthusiasm that every man 
of them, including, of course, the Argentines, and the Armenians 
and the Greeks, was drowned in a delirious sea of patriotism for 
England. Occasionally, when the speaker could be heard, such 
words as "Her Majesty," "dear Old England," "loyalty" and "our 
fathers" would bring down a fresh torrent of wild enthusiasm. 
Each meeting ended in the same way. The Rand refused to be- 
come naturalized, "and thus repudiate Her Majesty the Queen." 
The Rand demanded equal political rights. 

The trouble had started. 

In the meantime, the petition had arrived in England, and on its 
publication the sympathy with Kruger over the Jameson Raid 
now, either rightly or wrongly, vanished. It began to be generally 
accepted that Kruger had no intention of granting a further and 
more substantial franchise concession, and that, under these con- 
ditions, a friendly settlement was impossible. 

The British Press, inspired and made safe by the figure of Mr. 
Chamberlain in the House of Commons, leaped forward eagerly, 
and the problems of the land across the Vaal were taken out of the 
South African Republic, and splashed across the main pages of the 
English newspapers. This example was followed by Germany, 
France, and, later, the whole world, for it was now taken for 
granted that the Imperial Government had accepted the full 



KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

responsibility of its position, and this was an important interna- 
tional development. 

The borders of the South African Republic stretched to the 
banks of the Thames. At Westminster, the key complaint was 
thought to be the franchise question; but there was a neat little side 
issue when Chamberlain wrote to Kruger expressing his opinion 
that the dynamite monopoly was a breach of the Convention, and 
protested accordingly. In die same polite language in which the 
most bitter inter-state communications are always couched, the 
State-Secretary of the South African Republic replied that Her 
Majesty's Government was not justified in protesting. 

Faster and faster grew the pace. The torch was blazing now. 
The Transvaalers who had run the course with it had handed the 
brand over to England, and stood aside now, spent and panting, 
as the fresh men sprinted forward. On the side of the track stood 
the British Press, urging their side forward with ringing words 
of encouragement. 

All the newspapers published articles which make strangely 
uncomfortable reading today. The Times led the field with 
leaders of this nature: 

"It is clear that the present unprecedented state of things 
cannot go on much longer, without serious risk to the general 
welfare of South Africa. A spectacle like that in the Transvaal 
has not been seen anywhere else. There are a vast number of 
British subjects with undeniable grievances, surrounded by 
our own possessions and clamouring for help. We include not 
merely home-bred Englishmen, but citizens of Australia, 
the mother of great colonies, proud of the British flag and ac- 
customed to its protection. 

"If England allows the Boers to teach them that this protec- 
tion is insufficient against an insignificant Republic which 
owes to our magnanimity or weakness its relative independ- 
ence, the lesson may bear unexpected fruit, and not in South 
Africa alone. Even the foreign capitalists are calling us to 
end this intolerable position. The opinion of the world con- 
demns the stubborn obscurantism of the TransvaaL" 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

There was plenty of talk of war in the air now. British blood, 
unaccustomed to excitement and stimulus of this sort, ran quickly, 
and feverishly, at the mere thought of those ill-treated, tortured 
countrymen in the Transvaal; while in South Africa the Uitlanders 
heroically hid their surprise at the frightfulness of treatment they 
were apparently receiving. 

Those early forebodings, that sense of approaching disaster 
which had haunted Kruger through the years, now took on sub- 
stance and shape. He saw calmly now that the life of his beloved 
Republic was ebbing fast. All his dreams, all his hopes, his ideals, 
his very soul was dying. While there was breath left, he must 
fight on. In a last desperate effort to save his country, Oom Paul, 
the father of the Boers, arranged a conference with Sir Alfred 
Milner to discuss the franchise. The meeting was held in Bloem- 
fontein in June, 1899. Milner's franchise proposal was that a 
residence of five years in the country should qualify a man for 
citizenship. Kruger, once so confidently imposing a fourteen 
years' qualification now offered the High Commissioner a qualifi- 
cation of seven years. Neither man could accept the other's pro- 
posal. 

There was deadlock. 

A difference of two years in a residential qualification was to 
change the history of South Africa. 

Britain began to send troops over the six thousand miles of sea 
to mass quietly on the borders of the South African Republic. 

Kruger spoke to his people. He thanked the Volksraad for 
adopting his Bloemfontein proposal. They would gain the ad- 
miration of the whole world by this resolution, he said, for they 
had reduced the time of waiting from fourteen years to seven 
years. These were troublous times, and he did not know what 
was going to happen. The Government had never acted on the 
offensive, but had always been the side which gave in. The other 
side had not conceded one tittle. He could not give away any 
more now, for if he did he would be giving away the independence 
of his people. 

The staunch old Boer was seized with emotion. 



KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

"I do not want war," lie cried passionately, "I do not want war. 
But I will not give away anything more, for justice must prevail. 
We must always abide by justice, for the Bible says, 'Cursed be the 
man who removes his neighbour's landmark.* " 

And in England it was realized that Oom Paul could not be 
brought to heel. The leader of the Dutch, with his Bible behind 
him, would give in only by compulsion. 

Mr. Chamberlain was speaking at Birmingham: 

"Every man of sense," he said, "must see that there comes 
a time when patience can hardly be distinguished from weak- 
ness, and when moral pressure becomes a farce which cannot 
be continued without loss of self-respect. May the time never 
come in this instance. But if it does, unless I misjudge the 
temper and character of my countrymen, if they see that their 
Government is asking for what it has a right and duty to de- 
mand asking it in conciliatory terms, pressing only by moral 
persuasion and friendly remonstrance; if they see, I say, that 
that Government is again and again rebuffed, its friendly re- 
monstrances and advice scorned, and its requests refused, they 
will expect and insist that means shall be found to secure a 
result which is not only desirable in the interests of the British 
subjects, but which is essential to the peace and prosperity of 
the whole of South Africa." 

The British troops gathered steadily on the borders of Kruger's 
Republic. By September many thousands of soldiers had been 
stationed round the edges of the Transvaal. 

Kruger, too, had been preparing. The Boer soldiers were im- 
patient to fight. They urged Kruger that it was suicidal to wait 
until overwhelming reinforcements had arrived from England. 
Kruger lingered, hoping that somehow peace might be effected. 
But the dove and the olive branch did not fly in the clear blue sky 
of the Republic. The old fighter knew now that it was hopeless. 
He made arrangements for the mines to continue working as far 
as possible. He warned the Britishers of the Transvaal by procla- 
mation that they would be allowed to remain in the country if 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

they so desired, provided they had obtained the written permission 
of the Government. Thousands and thousands of people hurriedly 
left the Transvaal, and Kruger prepared to face his enemies. 

On October 9 in the year 1899, Paul Kruger, President of the 
South African Republic, issued a dispatch to Her Majesty's Agent 
at Pretoria asking the British Government to withdraw all troops 
from the borders, and, at the same time, to withdraw all troops 
landed in South Africa since the Bloemfontein Conference. He 
asked for an undertaking to this effect to be given within forty- 
eight hours. Failing this, all negotiations would be broken off. 
The dispatch made it quite clear that if the assurance asked for 
were not given, the Transvaal would consider the refusal a declara- 
tion of war, and would act accordingly. 

The British reply to the ultimatum came within a few hours. 
It was signed by Conynghame Greene. 

"SiR, 

"I am instructed by the High Commissioner to state to 
you that Her Majesty's Government have received with great 
regret the peremptory demands of the South African Republic 
conveyed to me in your Note of the 9th instant, and I am to 
inform you in reply that the conditions demanded by the 
Government of the South African Republic are such that Her 
Majesty's Government deem it impossible to discuss." 

That day, October tenth, Kruger established martial law. 
The Anglo-Boer War had begun. 

When, eight months later, on June 5, 1900, Lord Roberts entered 
Pretoria at the head of the victorious British troops, Kruger had 
already gone* A week earlier, on a bright May morning, he had 
walked slowly away from the low whitewashed house that had 
been his home. The British forces came nearer with each hour. 

Paul Kruger, leader of the Dutch, had lost the greatest fight of 
his life. His men, his burghers and his allies, were still warring 
in scattered formation all over the country, and he knew, as he 
stood in the dusty Pretoria street, that they were likely to oppose 



KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

the invaders for some time for as long as they could. But he 
knew, too, that the battle was already lost. The sound of British 
boots marching to Pretoria grew louder and louder as the old 
man stood before his house, taking a long silent farewell. He was 
bidding good-by to his country the only country he had ever 
known. He was taking his leave of the land he loved, which he 
had shaped and cared for after his own fashion* He was bidding 
good-by to his heart 

He stood motionless for a long time, staring at his house. 

Then he turned and walked away slowly, never to return. 

He established temporary headquarters on a stationary train in 
the little Transvaal town of Machadadorp. But the British troops 
were moving forward, and Kruger moved before them. He left 
South Africa forever the day he sailed from Lourengo Marques 
for Europe. For four years he lived at Clarens near Geneva. He 
was penniless, broken in spirit and tired. He was very old now, 
for he was a man without hope. Peace was signed in the land 
that was once his country in May, 1902. Two years later, Paul 
Kruger died. 

He had believed in the strength of his ideals. 

Unhappy man. 

During those days of warfare in the Transvaal, the gold mines 
of the Rand had stopped working. At first Kruger had com- 
mandeered the output of gold; then, as the mines closed down, 
his Boers had taken over one or two properties and worked them 
for the Republican Government. They mined gold to the value 
of two and a half million pounds, and undoubtedly a great part of 
this money went to defray the costs of war. But when Lord 
Roberts entered Pretoria there was no trace or sign of gold. It 
had disappeared with Kruger, leaving no more than a mystery 
which has never been solved the mystery of the missing Kruger 
millions. 

It is thirty-five years since Kruger fled from South Africa, but 
today, in the modern busy city of Johannesburg, the lure of the 
treasure-hunt remains ever green. Every small boy in South Africa 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

has heard of the missing Kruger millions. Every small boy has 
determined to find them. The story that Kruger buried this 
treasure in the vast loneliness of the Northern Transvaal has be- 
come real enough to form part of the history of the land. There 
are those, of course, who scoff. There are many more who pray. 
There are those who declare emphatically that the gold still lies 
hidden in the rocks and bushes of the veldt. Others declare with 
equal conviction that the millions were thousands, and that the 
thousands were spent on food, ammunition, wages and that no 
money was taken out of the country. 

One day the story of the Kruger millions is quashed by some 
person in authority some soldier who accompanied Kruger in his 
flight to the coast. He will say that the legend is empty, that it is 
a mythical romance and no more. The next day some other 
soldier who formed part of Kruger's bodyguard will tell of a bush- 
covered hill in the endless miles of the Northern Transvaal where 
he helped to stow great wooden boxes of gold. Old wizened na- 
tives will be called in to testify that one dark night thirty-five years 
ago they carried heavy crates of money into the hills. 

Each month brings new theories, with organized expeditions to 
exploit them. Thousands of pounds are spent in searching the 
wilderness of country for treasure. 

In Johannesburg shrewd, unemotional business men with ideas 
of their own will creep away from their respectable offices at 
vacation time to search out the old native chief who remembered 
the gold and the boxes, and the still dark train: the chief who 
remembers everything except the exact hiding-place. It was some- 
where in the hills. But the hills of the Northern Transvaal are 
endless, and they keep their secrets well. 

A farmer, peacefully asleep after his labors in the fields, will be 
suddenly awakened at the dead of night by the unmistakable 
sound of pickaxes and hammers near his homestead; and when, 
dressed only in his nightshirt, he goes to investigate, he will find 
a party of people silently digging up his farm by candlelight in 
search of treasure. Perhaps the foundations of some public build- 
ing in Johannesburg will be the center of activity official permis- 



KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

sion will be received, for example, to excavate round the gateway 
of the Johannesburg Fort. From the hills of the hinterland to 
the buildings of the city, treasure fever is a real disease in South 
Africa. 

Colonel Reitz, who was on commando at Machadadorp with 
Kruger, declares the story of the missing millions is a myth. 

"I remember seeing at Machadadorp fifty or sixty trucks at a 
siding under an armed guard," said Colonel Reitz, "We were all 
satisfied that they were filled to the brim with bars of gold, al- 
though all the gold in the world would not have filled those trucks. 
Anyway, we were all very credulous. I remember one night see- 
ing lanterns moving in the dark. Figures carried mysterious 
loads from the trucks on to the wagons, and I had no doubt, like 
everyone else, that a hoard of gold was being taken away and 
buried." 

Colonel Reitz said he asked General Botha what was in the 
boxes, and Botha told him, that they contained only ammunition 
and dynamite. Guerrilla tactics had been planned, and the am- 
munition was being taken to different places in the Transvaal. 
According to Reitz, the entire supply of gold taken from the mines 
was used by the Boers for the purchase of supplies and the general 
finance of war. He maintains that there was very little, if any, 
of the gold left by the time the British troops entered Pretoria. 

This is one account of the disposal of the Kruger millions. But 
there are others. There is the story, for example, told by J. P. 
Swartz, who was Kruger's coachman for twelve years. Swartz 
maintains that at Machadadorp there were special trucks on the 
line loaded with gold. 

"One day," he said, "two clerks of the Treasurer-General came to 
me. They told me to take the gold from the siding to a catde- 
truck standing on the main line. But the spider was very light 
for the job, so I traded it for a cart. With my own hands I loaded 
the gold and drove through the bush to the main line. In a truck 
two coaches away there were a lot of wooden boxes filled with 
money, some of it not yet properly minted- And in a corner stood 
a big iron trunk filled with blue-backs. Later the President sent 

[135] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

for me, and told me he was going to Delagoa Bay, and over the 
water. I asked him what was going to happen to the gold. He 
told me it was going over the water with him in the same ship 
to be made into money for the burghers. The gold bars that went 
with the President certainly never came back to the burghers. I'm 
still wating for my share of the Kruger millions. But I'm not one 
of those fools who go digging like moles, hoping to find the gold 
under a thorn tree in the bushveld." 

The fools who dig like moles under a thorn tree in the bushveld 
are not interested in the stories of either Colonel Reitz or Mr. 
Swartz. They have positive evidence that the treasure was buried 
in the hills. A native told them. A native who was with Kruger 
on that dim unforgotten night at Machadadorp. 

The hunt continues from east to west, from north to south, from 
the high mountains of the Transvaal to the deep seas of the Indian 
Ocean. It is as eager today as it was when Kruger left. It is 
almost as dangerous. Like every story of hidden treasure, like 
every tale of chests of gold, charts and skeletons, the story of the 
missing Kruger millions has brought in its wake a grim trail of 
death and disaster. The track to the Kruger millions is lined with 
lost lives. It started soon after the President sailed from Lourengo 
Marques when a suspicious-looking craft named the Dorothea 
suddenly left port, bound presumably for Durban. Rumor at once 
seized on this ship as the solution to the mystery. 

The sloop, it was said, was loaded with barrels of cement in 
which were embedded the missing millions. 

But before the Dorothea could touch port and prove or disprove 
the story, she sank in a storm with all hands. The Government 
of Natal were so confident that the treasure lay imprisoned in the 
wreck that they financed big syndicates to salvage the Dorothea. 
One of these syndicates was represented by a well-equipped ship 
called the Penguin, which carried a crew of twenty-one men. The 
commander, an experienced diver, himself went down to examine 
the hull of the wreck. He was drowned in his diving-suit. His 
ship hastily put back to Durban for a new captain, and then set off 
once more to unearth the treasure. On her return course the 



KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

Penguin encountered a violent storm. She sank. Her entire crew 
was drowned. 

The Kruger millions were shrouded with a cloth of evil and 
misfortune. But when there is gold great wooden boxes of 
gold at stake, few men are daunted by the coincidence of death. 
The wet graves of the Dorothea and the Penguin were not mourned 
long. Bands of adventurers in search of the treasure struck out 
across the lonely veldt toward the enigmatical hills of the north. 
Many of them never returned. They died of fever, snake bite or 
thirst. Their bodies would be left stretched out on the dry baking 
ground until the lions and vultures had picked clean the bones and 
the sun had bleached them white. Sometimes there was a bullet 
embedded in the skull. Dead men tell no tales of fraud and 
robbery. 

One of the parties in search of treasure was led by a Dutchman 
named Daniel Swart. This fair, bearded Boer had been on com- 
mando with the Dutch during the South African War. He, with 
his comrade Pretorius, had discovered one day the skeleton of a 
man lying close to a store of treasure in the wild, savage veldt. 
Gold and diamonds, and a dead man with no directions to offer 
save the spot where he had died. Swart and Pretorius marked the 
spot, and returned to their commando with their secret. Soon 
after this Pretorius disappeared. Some say he was killed in war- 
fare. Others believe he was murdered because he knew too much. 
He was never heard of again. 

After the war, Swart approached a party of men with the pro- 
posal that they should accompany him to the north to locate the 
missing Kruger millions. He told them of his discovery, and 
produced a chart giving the bearings of the skeleton in a line be- 
tween two great baobab trees and a bald patch on a certain granite- 
covered kopje. He was confident that he could locate the spot 
again, and his story was convincing. Four men, including Swart's 
great friend Van Niekerk, enthusiastically agreed to follow this 
trail to the treasure, and one morning soon after, this little band 
of adventurers set off to find a skeleton and the gold it guarded. 

The way lay over the unbroken veldt toward the heart of lonely, 

[137] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

untamed country. The land was alive with wild beasts, and there 
were savage natives lurking behind the shadows. Twenty miles 
north of the Blyde River the treasure-seekers were forced to 
abandon their cart and continue over the rough country on foot. 
All day they marched in the scorching sun over the tufted, im- 
peding grass. Someone had punctured the waterbottle, and a dry, 
aching thirst seized the party. There was no sign of a stream or 
rivulet in all the miles under their eyes. Their tongues grew 
swollen, their throats caked with dust. They could go no farther 
without water, so they struck camp. Swart suggested that he 
and Van Niekerk should search for a water hole while the other 
three men awaited their return in camp. It was agreed, and the 
two friends set out across the veldt armed with rifles. 

Suddenly the stillness of the air was pierced by two shots fired 
in quick succession. Then there was silence. The men in the 
camp, tired and thirsty, paid no heed to the sound of shots. They 
thought that their companions had been shooting for the pot. 
They waited restlessly for the men to return. Darkness fell before 
Swart returned to the camp. He was alone. He said he had 
wounded a wild buck, and had sent Van Niekerk in pursuit, as 
his gammy leg prevented him from giving chase. Van Niekerk 
did not come back that night. He had probably been chased up 
a tree by lions, said Swart, and the other men, satisfied with this 
theory, did not bother any more. But they still had no water; 
their thirst was unbearable, and when the dawn came next morn- 
ing they decided to move on, leaving Van Niekerk to follow them, 
or find his way back to the cart. 

They started off again over the veldt, and trudged for some miles 
before they found a water-hole. They drank their fill. Then the 
four men moved off in search of a skeleton. 

Suddenly Swart halted. A little way ahead was a granite- 
covered kopje with a bald patch. There were two baobab trees 
below to the left They had arrived at their goal. Somewhere in 
the country round them there was treasure. Swart, the leader, 
told the men to mount the hill and wait for him while he took a 
line from the baobab trees. He marched off with his chart, while 



KRUGER CALLS THE FATAL TUNE 

his three companions climbed the kopje. All day they waited for 
Swart, but he did not come back. Another night closed in on 
them, and still there was no sign of their leader. They were un- 
easy and suspicious. Swart had deserted them on the threshold of 
discovery. Their rations were running short. This was dangerous 
country in which to be abandoned. Next morning three men 
moved slowly down the kopje and started back toward their cart 
on the banks of the Blyde River. For two long days they trekked 
through the heat of the fierce African sun, and they saw no sign 
of Swart on the way. 

When they reached the cart, they found that someone had been 
there before them, for there was a candle stuck on one of the 
wheels, and a quantity of flour and provisions had disappeared. 
There was a note under a stone on the cart a note from Van 
Niekerk, saying he had returned to Leydsdorp, and would wait 
for them there. But there was no word from Swart. For four 
days the party waited for the leader of the expedition to return, 
but he did not come. It seemed certain now that he must have 
been attacked and mauled by a lion. He could not be alive. The 
little party of three started back for Leydsdorp. Their treasure- 
hunt had petered out to a miserable end. 

As they neared the comparative civilization of the little veldt 
town, their horses stopped dead and reared with fright. A wild 
maniacal figure jumped out of the bush. It was Swart. His face 
was screened with a heavy growth of beard. His clothes were in 
rags. He was famished, and nearly dying of thirsL In a violent, 
uncontrolled manner he accused his companions of having de- 
serted him. He had found the treasure, he said. It was gold and 
diamonds. He had wrapped the diamonds in a piece of his shirt 
and buried them on the banks of the Blyde River. He had left the 
gold where he had found it, as it was too heavy for him to carry. 

The three treasure-hunters returned to Johannesburg. Swart 
persuaded two new companions to accompany him into the bush 
to retrieve the treasure he had found. The weeks passed. There 
was no sign or trace of Van Niekerk. One of the original party, 
a man called Colville, grew more and more suspicious. He in- 

[139] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

formed the police, and set out with a patrol to search the country. 

Shortly after they had left, Mrs. Van Niekerk received a note 
from her husband saying he was still in the low country, and 
would be away for three weeks. That very day, in the heart of 
the veldt, the police discovered the decomposed body of Van 
Niekerk lying close to the spot where the party had struck camp. 
He had been shot twice in the back at close quarters. He had been 
murdered by Swart, who had deferred suspicion by forging the 
notes to his companions, and to the dead man's wife. 

Daniel Swart was hanged for murder in Johannesburg in 1903. 
His death only heightened the mystery of the treasure, for Col- 
ville found the diamonds wrapped in a piece of shirt on the banks 
of the Blyde River, as Swart had described. There was no trace 
of the missing gold. Some say now that Swart set upon a lonely 
traveler, killed him for his diamonds, and then forever sealed the 
mouth of his friend Pretorius, who knew, and had seen. Others 
believe that the diamonds were really part of the Kruger millions, 
and that Swart had stumbled across the skeleton. 

Kruger, Swart, Pretorius, Van Niekerk none of them spoke. 

The mystery of the missing Kruger millions remains a secret 
locked in the stony heart of that vast wilderness of silent country. 

Every now and again someone in South Africa discovers little 
hoards of gold buried in the earth; the workmen who found two 
boxes of gold when they were excavating the foundations of Union 
Buildings the Government offices in Pretoria claimed and re- 
ceived half the value of their find as treasure trove. 

And the hunt continues. It is just one more of those unfinished 
stories of South Africa. 



[140] 



CHAPTER VI 

BLACK BUSINESS 

FROM THE TIME THAT MINING WAS FIRST STARTED ON THE WJLTWATERS- 

rand, the problem of securing an adequate supply of native labor 
has always been difficult. 

On the face of it, this position might seem surprising when it is 
remembered that there were about eight million black men roam- 
ing about the country without any job in life apart from finding 
enough food to satisfy their appetites. But the idea of holding a 
job was completely foreign to the native. He knew nothing of 
wages, of employment, of contracts. He had not yet risen to that 
standard of civilization where he could take an hour off for lunch, 
and get a fortnight's holiday once a year. He was a free man, in a 
free fair country until they found gold on the Rand. 

The native tribes of Africa were pastoral or agricultural com- 
munities. They were bound only by the mere necessities of life, 
which, to them, were very few and easily obtained some mealies, 
a little wild game, animal skins to be worn sparingly, and a mud 
hut to sleep in at night. And when these slight matters had been 
attended to, the rest of God's day belonged to the native to hunt 
and sing, to gossip, and teach the children the strict laws and 
sacred traditions of the tribe. They were happy and content to 
tend their land, sowing corn and breeding cattle, which they re- 
garded not only as a means of barter, to be used to buy wives, or 
pay for the mistake of seducing another man's wife, but also as 
sacred animals carrying the precious spirits of their ancestors. 
Each tribe was jealous of the other, and each tribe trained its 
magnificent young men to be warriors and defenders of their chief. 

The endless days of Africa moved back the centuries. The peo- 
ple of her great wide lands lived on, happy, content and strong. 
Then the white men came, to take some of their land from them, 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

to fight them with strange weapons and imprison their brothers 
as slaves. But the white people were few in number, and they 
settled close to the shores of the sea, in the south and in the east. 
They left the vast lands of the interior undisturbed, and the native 
had much land in which to hunt and fight and sow his corn. 

The day was yet sunny, the sky cloudless. 

But the white man moved forward over the hills of the Cape 
toward the flat barren land over the Vaal, and into the fruitful 
pastures of Natal. He came in white-covered wagons. He came 
to take the land of the natives. He came as an enemy of the black 
man. The young warriors set out to fight these strange pale- 
skinned people, to kill these invaders and protect the land in which 
the sacred spirits of their ancestors were interred. But although 
the shields of the warriors were strong and their assegais 
sharp, the white men had guns which spat fire and wagons 
which they drew up together to form protecting and unassailable 
fortresses. 

After the battle they moved on, always on, leaving the red blood 
of the black men to stain the grass of the earth. Over the lands of 
the Baramapulana, through the country of the Bapedi, past the 
kraals of the Swazis, and into the stronghold of the Zulus, the 
handsomest and bravest of them all. 

And as they moved forward, the white men with their guns that 
spat fire threw off the black tribes as a ship's bow throws off the 
powerful waters around it. The warriors fought the evil of the 
invader fiercely, but the witchcraft of the white man turned 
their sharp assegais aside, and the trail of wagons moved on, over 
the black man's land, to force him back, farther and farther away 
from the land of his fathers. Some of the white men settled in the 
little hollow of hills not far from the high ridge which shed the 
water of the rains. Then a village grew on the hills, the town of 
Pretoria. Presently more white men came, until there were a 
great number of them in the land across the Vaal. They sowed 
their crops and grazed their cattle just as the black man had done, 
and they rode out on horses to do battle with those warriors who 
tried to take back their country. 

[ I4 2] 



BLACK BUSINESS 

The rains came and went. The grass of the earth turned from 
green to dusty brown and back to green. The rivers rose and fell, 
as the years moved by. And then, great armies of white men 
came up in carts to spread over the high ridge that shed the waters, 
like ants spread over the carcass of a dead beast in the sun. Soon 
the stillness of the veldt was torn with strange sounds, as the white 
men on the ridge made holes in the ground, and crushed the rock 
of the earth with strong implements of iron. The black men 
listened to the clanking and the roar. They watched the ox- 
wagons crossing their country bearing more implements, moore 
tools. They saw the skyline alter until it was sharply silhouetted 
with iron and wooden structures fashioned out of the brain of 
the white man. 

They listened. They watched the birth of the gold mines. The 
sun had disappeared in a bank of dark cloud. 

The miners of the Rand realized at a very early stage that their 
industry could not exist profitably without a plentiful supply of 
cheap black labor, but this was not easy to obtain. The natives, 
now subdued and quiet, could not understand the new puzzling 
machinery which had sprung up on the Rand. They were sus- 
picious, and they were nervous, because they believed that here 
was the outward manifestation of evil spirits. They shunned the 
new industry, and could not be induced to come near the Rand. 
The offer of money was of little effect, for they knew not what it 
meant, nor was gold of any use to them. They preferred to live 
on such ground as the white man had left, far from the sound of 
drills and stamps. 

This passive resistance to the power of money and the wish of 
the white boss was exceedingly disturbing to the gold-mining in- 
dustry, for without black labor there could be no profits, and profits 
came before all things to the early men of the mining industry. 
The cunning and confidence that come with gold, however, were 
a telling weapon against the simplicity of the black man, and the 
magnates of the Witwatersrand prepared a dozen different forms 
of persuasion to get the natives down the mines. They had no 
scruples, no feelings, no sentiments, no illusions about justice. To 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

them, the black man represented no more than a strong body to 
be harnessed to the yoke of industry, to make its owners rich and 
to provide them with a comfortable source of income. 

They never realized, or never wanted to realize, that the native 
was a man. He was just a great lumbering beast of burden, and 
must be treated as such. Cattle. That is how the mining industry 
saw the natives of Africa. Just black cattle to be driven, and 
whipped; to make the wheels go round. The tradition of that 
early Africa was that no leniency should be shown to the native, 
for leniency, it was argued, was a sign of weakness, and would be 
taken advantage of. 

Occasionally very occasionally when some man, more sensi- 
tive than the rest, rose to protest against the treatment of the na- 
tives, he was shouted down, the withering finger of scorn and 
contempt was pointed accusingly, he was placarded with the 
most sneering of all South African descriptions "negrophile" 
and was regarded as a danger and a menace to the white popula- 
tion of the country. Any man who pleaded on behalf of eight 
million subservient, conquered natives must be a danger to half 
a million white men. This fear in their hearts made the white 
people of Africa ruthless, unrelenting, inhuman. 

It was realized on the Rand, however, that sheer force would not 
bring labor to the mines. It would drive the natives farther away. 
The method of persuasion to be used should be one of subtlety, a 
system involving infinite finesse and great patience, and so the 
mining industry evolved the idea of a recruiting organization. 
This at first was no more than a large free-lance organization for 
finding ways to force natives down the mines. The recruiting 
agents were men of poor character, whose natural amorality was 
exaggerated by the industry's offer of commission on each native 
captured for mine work. The agents pursued their business of 
enticement in the country of the black man, many miles away from 
the ears of the town; their methods of persuasion were never in- 
vestigated or examined, and the manner in which they obtained 
their results was never questioned. It was enough for the mines 
to get their natives. It was enough for the agents to get their 



BLACK BUSINESS 

commission. They were paid thirty-seven shillings and sixpence 
for each native they secured on a hundred-and-eighty-shift con- 
tract, forty-seven shillings and sixpence for a two-hundred-and- 
seventy-shift contract, and sixty shillings for a three-hundred-and- 
sixty-shif t contract. 

It was a very profitable business, especially when a tribal chief 
could be bribed to compel his subjects to enroll as mine workers. 
A wholesale order of this kind was the prize achievement of the 
recruiter, and all other methods of persuasion were of secondary 
importance to that of bribing the ruler of a tribe. The agents 
would journey far into the strongholds of the black kings with 
gifts of cattle, alcohol and guns. Any one of these presents was 
certain to insure an interview with the chief, and if the recruiter 
had brought alcohol with him, his job was made so much easier 
after a few bottles had been opened on the floor of the royal kraal. 
It was then that the recruiter was called upon to exercise subtlety 
and cunning, for the chiefs were jealous of the welfare of their 
warriors, and not all the gin in the world would make them sign 
away their subjects unless the proposition of the recruiting agent 
was made to appear extremely attractive. They were resolutely 
opposed to any suggestion involving their subjects in underground 
work, for the natives were superstitiously afraid of entering the 
earth. 

But the recruiting agents made it quite clear from the start that 
mining did not ever involve its employees in work tinder the 
ground. They admitted sometimes, with an air of sincerity which 
made their story good, that the natives would be called upon to 
work in holes up to their ankles, but this was all. They solemnly 
promised. J 

Some of the accounts of the new gold-mining industry on the 
Witwatersrand, as told by recruiters squatting before an ebony 
chief in the wild hills of the country, are admirable only for their 
imaginative origin. They told how the natives would be given 
alcohol to drink every day, and guns that spat fire. They described, 
with a wealth of detail, the sleek fat cattle which they would 
bring back to their kraals from the white man's country* They 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

talked of music and good food, and long pleasant days in the 
mines. 

They were careful to gloss over the implications of the contracts 
they carried in their pockets for signature, and when they were 
questioned about these papers, they declared easily that this was a 
mere formality which meant nothing at all. After more gin had 
circulated, and more delightful descriptions of work on the gold 
mines had been given by the white man to the black man, the 
contract would be signed with a great smudged cross as the mark 
of the chief. 

Soon the strong, straight-limbed warriors would leave their 
thatched kraals, their wives and their mealie patches on their 
journey of adventure to the Rand. They were happy and content 
to go, for they believed that if they did not like the white man's 
country, they could return at once to their homes. But the re- 
cruiting agent held a three-hundred-and-sixty-shift contract for 
each man, and he knew, as he watched them set off to walk across 
the miles that separated their broad lands from the machinery that 
was the Rand, that it would be a long time before these men saw 
their wives again. A year, at least. Their contract chained them 
to the Rand for a year. 

Mama Letshe Moshesh, the wise old King of the Basutos, was 
caught like this. He signed a contract to send some of his men to 
work for the Jumpers Company. But he went with his subjects 
to the new town of Johannesburg in order to see for himself what 
the white man was doing. He saw natives pushing and sweating 
under the ground, he saw them beaten and kicked by white over- 
seers. There were no cows, no music. The food was miserable 
and scanty. The black men were slaves. 

Mama did not hesitate. He sent his warriors back to their 
kraals while he waited sanguinely in Johannesburg for the laws 
of the white man to bring their reprisals. He had taken the pre- 
caution of engaging the services of a lawyer, and he waited for 
the charge against him of breaking his contract with the Jumpers 
Company to be heard in the courts. But his case was always re- 
manded, and Mama would wait indefinitely for no man. So he 

[146] 



BLACK BUSINESS 

walked out of Johannesburg one morning and left a letter of 
explanation for his lawyer. It was written in Basuto in the hand 
lie had been taught by the missionaries. 

"DEAR SIR: 

"You will be surprised to see that I do not appear. But I 
have appeared several times to hear the decision of the Land- 
drost, and also to prove that white enticed me and my men to 
leave our country under false pretenses. But every time my 
case is remanded, and so I have come to the conclusion that 
they want to invent some scheme to get me into trouble; and 
also mine is, I think, a case for Basutoland, and not for the 
Transvaal. 

"So if they want to try me, let them try me there. If they 
have right on their side they will win the case; and if they do 
not wish to come so far, and since they are so fond of post- 
poning the case, ask them to have the case postponed for six 
months, as, for the present, I am tired of waiting, and long 
to see my native hills again. 

"And if any more whites visit these peaceable quarters, I 
shall know how to deal with them. And I dare say when you 
are reading this I shall be safe and at home, and will never come 
again to the Transvaal. Also not forgetting to thank you for 
your legal assistance, and wishing to tell all fair men that the 
way white is trying to make natives work will never succeed, 
and also wishing to be understood that I am not wishing to 
break the laws of the country and God, but for fear of meet- 
ing the schemes of schemers in a strange country. 

"I now conclude and remain, 
"Your obedient 

"MAMA LETSHE MOSHESH." 

The recruiting agents were not abashed by slight setbacks of 
this sort. When they failed to conclude satisfactory negotiations 
with the chiefs, they turned their attention toward individual mem- 
bers of the tribes. This work was more laborious and petty, but 
the recruiters made it worth their own while. 

The broad territory of the hinterland was dotted with little 

[147] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

wooden-shack trading-stores which sold sugar and beads, colored 
mirrors and cheap blankets to the natives at enormous profits. 
These stores were owned and conducted by white men, who made 
it part of their business routine to practice every known form of 
trickery and extortion, together with a few original and indig- 
enous schemes of their own, on their ignorant customers. To 
swell their coffers, already made heavy with the payments of the 
natives, the traders adopted the additional job of recruiting. Their 
formula for capture seldom varied. They offered their tawdry 
but expensive wares to the native on credit. They plied him with 
bright pink blankets and rolls of copper wire. They pressed their 
mirrors into his hand, and he, enchanted and fascinated by this 
strange glass which showed him his own face, accepted the goods 
without question. They offered him beads and sugar, shirts like 
the white man wore, and shiny black shoes made of cardboard* 
Not that this last factor mattered very much, for the native never 
wore his shoes. He trudged barefooted for miles across the stony 
country carrying his shoes slung round his neck. They were, to 
him, a precious ornament, a rare and lovely possession. 

The trader's habitual scowl turned to an ingratiating smile as 
he handed his cheap rubbish across the counter. He waited until 
the native was well in debt before he demanded his money. Then 
his smile disappeared; he became fierce and threatening as he 
shouted at the customer who was once so welcome. No, the 
trader would not take payment in cattle or corn. He wanted gold. 
The native was frightened. He had no gold. He could do noth- 
ing to stem the anger and the threats of the white man. It was 
always at this point in the scene that the shopkeeper turned re- 
cruiter, as he leaned across the counter to tell the native in per- 
suasive tones how he could meet his debt. When, a little later, 
the native left the wooden shack, he was under contract to work 
on the mines for the period of one year. He set out the next day 
to walk to the Rand. His cheap boots, the relic of an adventure 
which he could not appreciate, were slung round his neck. The 
trader was making out a memorandum to the mining company in 
wtich he credited himself with capitation fees, and gave instruc- 



BLACK BUSINESS 

tions that the debt owed to him by the native must be paid direct 
by the company out of the man's wages. 

There were other ways of exerting pressure. There were other 
baits, besides mirrors and beads and blankets, with which to tempt 
the unsuspecting black man. The tribal customs of marriage, for 
example, brought fruitful results to the recruiters. These customs, 
known as lobola, made it necessary for a young warrior to pay for 
his wife in cattle before marriage. The amount to be paid varied 
according to the demands of the girPs family. Consequently mar- 
riage presented the same problems to the black warriors of Africa 
as it did to the white waistcoats of Mayfair. Many men could 
not afford it. Here again the recruiter slipped in with offers of 
assistance. Lobola would be paid, the marriage would be per- 
formed with great ceremony, and the young husband would leave 
his home soon after to work his debt off in the mines. 

Seduction was even more expensive than marriage. It was 
relatively as costly in the bare savage regions of the hinterland 
in those days as it is today in the smart precincts of Reno. There 
were two differences, though. Seduction was strongly disapproved 
of by the black man, and the co-respondent would be forced to pay 
heavily for his adventure not in dollars, but in cattle. The trader 
or recruiter would once more come to the assistance of the native 
with a loan which had to be repaid. 

Gradually, then, the black men of South Africa were put on the 
path that led to the gold mines of the Rand, and slowly the simple, 
unsophisticated native was introduced to the ways of the white 
man. 

The actual work of mining on the Reef was effected by the na- 
tives. It was they who hammered away ceaselessly all day at the 
resisting face of the rock. It was they who drilled holes and 
hauled the quartz to the surface. It was they who performed the 
heavy thankless part of the job. They were presided over on each 
property by a handful of white miners who did little else but stand 
about shouting oaths at the natives and goading them forward to 
greater and greater exertions. These white miners were invariably 
stubborn, uneducated men, for anyone with the faintest tinge of 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

shrewdness was too busy promoting companies and selling shares 
to consider doing any work on the mines in which they appeared 
so greatly interested. 

The qualification, then, for the white miner, dismissing, as it 
did, all sign of intelligence and ambition, successfully eliminated 
the entire population of Johannesburg. Apart from a few Cornish- 
men who had come over to show the Rand the difference between 
a pickax and a hammer, and had remained to get rich, the white 
miners were drawn exclusively from the lower class of Boers. The 
young Dutchman who worked down a mine in the position of 
overseer in those early days of the Rand was a great strong creature 
possessing little more than bulging biceps and a marked distaste 
for natives. This prejudice was based on a long history of bloody 
conflict between the pioneer trekkers and the savage black tribes. 
Every Dutchman in the Transvaal had been brought up on stories 
of massacre and butchery, and although the battles had all been 
fought a long time before, the young descendants of the Transvaal 
pioneers kept alight the flame of hatred and suspicion against the 
natives, almost as a loyal duty to their forefathers. 

The life of the new black recruit from the hinterland was not 
made easy or comfortable under conditions such as these. The 
savage warriors of Cetewayo, Dingaan and Tshaka had been van- 
quished by the small forces of the white man. They were no 
longer savages, but just black men who held their conquerors in 
awe and respect. The fierce, untamed spirit of the warrior had 
been curbed, and in the mines it appeared only within the legal 
limits of the war-dances which they performed as a kind of enter- 
tainment in their few leisure hours. Occasionally the old lust for 
batde would struggle and break out of the narrow confines im- 
posed by the new order, and then one tribe of mine boys would 
set upon a rival clan, not with assegais, which they had left at 
home, but with sticks and stones; and they would fight with blood 
in their hearts and in their eyes. 

But it was always black man against black man. 

The white man was regarded by all sections as a powerful 
master, and was obeyed even when his orders were unjust and his 



BLACK BUSINESS 

actions cruel. For the white miner was taking no chances. His 
superiority, he believed, must be maintained with a clenched fist 
and a stentorian voice of command which brooked neither ques- 
tion nor disobedience. Discipline. That word covered a multitude 
of sins. It sheltered a hundred injustices in the dark tunnels of 
the mines. Discipline. Those in command of the Rand believed 
firmly in the theory of discipline. They seldom bothered to find 
out how this theory was put into practice by their employees; and 
if, occasionally, some act of outstanding violence against a native 
were brought to their attention, they would merely nod thought- 
fully, assure each other that such disciplinary measures must be 
taken if the white man was to be obeyed and the mines continue 
to prosper, and then they would turn their attention to the more 
serious business of making more profits, 

It was difficult for a young native who had come straight from 
his kraal to the Rand to understand the ways of the white man. 
To begin with, he was astounded, and a little unnerved, by the 
strange new town of Johannesburg. He had never seen so many 
white skins and red necks in his life. There were great buildings 
of wood and even brick. There were carts drawn by horses or 
oxen. There were white women who covered their bodies from 
head to toe and wore the feathers of birds in their hats. There 
were men walking about the great wide streets in straw hats and 
trousers, blowing smoke through their mouths, and sometimes 
wearing round pieces of glass in front of their eyes. There was a 
great deal of talking which he could not understand. 

The new recruit was not given much time to inspect Johannes- 
burg, for he was sent to work down one or another of the mines 
almost as soon as he arrived on the Rand. His first shock came 
when he learned that he must enter the earth and work under the 
ground. But there was no turning back now, for he was herded 
and pushed toward the gaping hole, and once he was down in the 
darkness of the mine he was under the control of a white man. 

The white man shouted orders at him in Dutch. The native 
could not understand. He tried to tell the master so, in his own 
tongue. The white man did not wait for an explanation. He sent 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

the native sprawling in the mud with a well-aimed blow on the 
jaw. This new kaffir must be taught discipline. He must be 
taught from the beginning not to argue with the white man. More 
especially he must be taught not to talk in his own damned lingo, 
which the white man could not, and did not wish to, understand. 

And so, in this fashion, the native was introduced to his new 
life. There were more blows, more kicks and punches for him, 
and gradually he was knocked into learning the art of mining. 
He set about his job quietly and uncomplainingly. He knew 
now that he must sweat in the earth like a beast in the fields. He 
must draw great truck-loads of rock along the tunnels like an ox. 
He must hammer a long piece of iron into the hard granite all 
day until his limbs ached with the vibration and his head spun 
round. He began to learn the danger of dynamite, and he came 
to realize that when the work was most hazardous it was he, and 
not the white man, who was sent to drill the face of the insecure 
stope. When the rock came crashing down, there was only an- 
other black body underneath. It did not matter very much. 

His only light by which to work was the glimmering flame of 
a candle. Very often he was given short rations in candles, and 
when the flame died away he was forced either to finish his work 
in the thick darkness of the underground, or else to leave it in- 
complete, and thus forfeit his pay for the whole day. 

He knew what it was to feel ill, to be accused of malingering and 
to be sent back down the hot sticky shaft. He dreamed of those 
lost days on his mealie patch or in his kraal as a visionary idyl. 
All his hours of sunlight now, from dawn to dusk and after, were 
spent in the murky tunnels of the mine. When at last he came 
up from the blackness of the earth, the sky above him was dark 
with night. He would be given food ill-cooked, dirty, disagree- 
able food and then, tired out with fatigue, he would sleep on the 
stone floor of the long tin compound, huddled close to the hun- 
dreds of other natives around him. The next day would start 
the same story for him again. More work, more blows, more 
kicks. He did not complain, for he could not understand why 
this should be. It was the law of the white man. 



BLACK BUSINESS 

More than twenty years later, when the industry had made 
great strides and when the country had progressed toward a 
measure of civilization, the Government of South Africa appointed 
an official Commission to inquire into and report upon the con- 
ditions of labor of mine natives. An extract of this report dated 
1913 reads: 

"A complaint which is all but universal throughout the 
mines is that natives are frequently assaulted by Europeans, 
generally underground. A certain number of such cases seem 
inevitable when the conditions of the work are considered. 
The mines consist of an enormous mileage of tunnels in which 
a number of Europeans, many of them of no high standard 
of education or ethics, are each in practically unchecked con- 
trol of several members of a servient race. As a rule neither 
the master nor the servant understands the other's language, 
yet the master has to give directions, and the servant to obey 
them. Both parties are working under unhealthy and un- 
natural conditions. In these circumstances the temptation to, 
and the opportunity for, assaults on the servant by the master 
are constantly present. 

"It has sometimes been found difficult to secure convictions, 
the available evidence not being very strong. The corrobora- 
tion of marks on the body is rarely obtainable in the case of 
habitual offenders, since these take care to strike the native 
where he is clothed. The complainant's evidence is, in the 
nature of things, exclusively native: and it is difficult to obtain 
the conviction of a white man on purely native evidence* 
Also the European often manages to persuade some of the 
natives working under him to support his version." 



The report proceeds to deal with conditions in the compounds 
conditions, it must be remembered, twenty years more advanced 
than those of the early days. 

"In every compound [states this Commissioner of the 
Government] the compound manager is assisted by a num- 
ber of natives who are called 'police.' They are not, of course, 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

police at all, but merely employees in the mine like the rest of 
the native labourers. They are, however, invested with con- 
siderable, if rather vague, powers over the remainder of the 
natives: and the principal policeman, known as 'the induna/ 
is a person of very great consequence indeed in the compound. 
A good many of the complaints may be put down to tribal 
jealousy; every tribe objects to being ordered about by another 
tribe. This is generally met by choosing a policeman from 
each tribe which is represented in the compound; but the 
induna must belong to one tribe or another, and his appoint- 
ment will usually give dissatisfaction to all tribes but his own. 
"Allowing, however, for this feeling, I have no doubt that 
many of the complaints against the compound police are well 
founded. Allegations of habitual assault are common; and 
although most compound managers assert that they never 
allow their police to touch other natives, I notice that it is the 
ordinary practice of such police to carry sjamboks. Of course, 
these may be, as I am assured, merely badges of office; but 
when you put an offensive weapon into the hands of a savage, 
I doubt whether it is easy to convince him that he carries it 
solely for ornamental purposes. I have also seen natives pre- 
sumably police or boss boys going underground similarly 
armed, and I have failed to learn what portion of their duties 
requires to be performed with a sjambok." 

So spoke the appointed voice of the Government, twenty years 
later. A young country grows out of its early habits as fast as a 
schoolboy grows out of his clothes. Twenty years in a new land 
is a long time in which to rectify the mistakes and evils of its 
youth, and a Government report dated 1913 giving restrained and 
sober evidence of ill-treatment among natives serves well as an 
unwritten account of the harsher, fiercer, more vindictive con- 
ditions that must have preceded it in the days when the Govern- 
ment was either too uneducated or too indifferent to make any 
awkward inquiries. 

The years that marked off the last decade of the nineteenth 
century were swaddled in the clothes of infant intellect and child- 
ish insensitiveness. The sufferers were the black men on the 



BLACK BUSINESS 

mines; they had not yet come to live in that stage of civilization 
where their complaints would be heard by the Government or 
anyone else. So they said nothing. They drew their pay each 
month it amounted on an average to forty-three shillings a 
month and either saved it to buy cattle, or else spent it in a 
strangely exciting imitation of the white man. In this way a con- 
siderable amount of the profits earned by Nellmapius out of his 
alcohol monopoly was made by selling liquor to natives. 

The recruiting agents were busier than ever capturing natives 
for the expanding industry on the Rand, while in the kraals the 
women waited for their husbands to return and the old men shook 
their heads sadly. 

Then came the Boer War. 

The mines stopped work, and all the native employees were 
repatriated. The clash of Boer and Briton freed the black man 
from the mines, and the native kraals in the hills and on the plains 
were humming once more with the talk of menfolk. The stories 
they told of the Rand were listened to with wonderment by the 
women, but the old men with frizzy gray hair and short stunted 
beards could not conceal their disapproval. Their sons had 
changed. They had learned to drink strong spirits, and to 
gamble for money on the throwing of five stones. They had 
returned to their homes with the clothes of the white man. They 
had learned, many of them, to do without women. It was not 
right. They must be kept at home, now, in the arms of their 
tribe, in their rightful place. 

The sound of gun and cannon boomed across the Transvaal as 
Boer and Briton fought for each other's blood. White man against 
white man. Out of the range of conflict, the native sat before his 
hut, talking to his children, as he sharpened his hunting-spear 
and watched his wife sow the crops and tend the cattle. He was 
master here. He was at home. 

Then came peace. The mines were opened up again, and the 
demand for labor was full-throated and eager. But the natives 
would not go back to the Rand. Not all the wiles and tempta- 
tions of the recruiting agent could persuade them. They had 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

tasted the experiment of industrial life and had found it unsavory. 
They had experienced the ways of the white lords. They pre- 
ferred to be ruled by the laws of their tribal chief, which they knew 
and understood. They would not return to the Rand. 

Once more the mining industry was faced with the most delicate 
and harassing of all its problems the problem of securing cheap 
labor. This was a matter of supreme importance to the Rand, for 
black men made profits for the mines with their cheap bargain 
bodies, and profit, after all, was the only reason for the existence 
of the industry. There was a difference between paying forty- 
three shillings a month for a native, and thirty pounds a month for 
a white man all the difference in the world, especially when the 
white miner could not be relied on to do the heavy work. Eco- 
nomically and industrially the gold-mining industry was in a 
dilemma when the native resisted its offers of a subterranean pro- 
fession, ready-made and payable at the rate of a little over two 
pounds a month. The position grew so critical on the Rand, and 
competition became so keen among the mine owners to obtain 
black workmen, that native wages rose to fifty-six shillings a 
month. But even this had little effect. 

A Government Commission was appointed to inquire into the 
question of labor in the Transvaal. Now, this Commission called 
evidence from men they considered "experts" in native affairs, 
and their suggestions were treated with attentive respect, and 
were noted down accurately for the future guidance of men and 
ministers less expert in matters of this kind. So it came to pass 
that a number of civilized men sat round a conference table and 
suggested almost casually that the complete native nation should 
be disintegrated, and the ageless social system of the black man 
should be destroyed in order to fill the mines with cheap labor. 
The details of destruction advocated by the gentlemen experts 
varied, naturally, in character, but the finding was unanimous. 

Native life must be made so uncomfortable that the black man 
would fly to the mines for relief. He must be forced off his land, 
and be frozen economically out of the warmth and comfort of 
his own little mealie patch. He must be forced to pay taxes which 



BLACK BUSINESS 

he could not possibly afford unless he worked on the Rand. He 
and his children must be systematically taught to desire things 
which they could not buy without the money of the mines. The op- 
portunity of obtaining land must be withheld from him, and he 
must be moved away from the country of his ancestors, and herded 
into native settlements near industrial centers. The laws and 
traditions of the tribe must be destroyed. In short, the expert 
gentlemen, after a good lunch at the Rand club, and happy in the 
knowledge that their dividends were secure, suggested to the 
Government Commission that the spirit of the native races of 
South Africa should be broken, their pride and their beliefs should 
be smashed and their stomachs should be starved. Then, of course, 
the mines might make more profits. 

Not that they said this in so many words. Remembering the 
dignity of their positions, they used language which might be 
called parliamentary to wrap up schemes which might be called 
civilized. 

Imagine, then, the conference room, thick with the smoke of 
expensive cigars, and humming with talk of native labor, inter- 
spersed with whispered gossip on the latest and best mining 
proposition. The outcome of this heavy intellectuality is con- 
tained in a large thin book, published by the Government printer, 
and bound in official blue paper. It is the report of the work of 
this historic Commission. 

"Your Commission has heard with satisfaction two sugges- 
tions which it regards as based upon sound principles, and 
advisable in connection with the labour supply [says the Blue 
book]. 

"The first is that additional direct taxation should be levied 
upon natives in order to provide for the education of their own 
children. This would promote higher wants and civilisation. 

"The other is that some portion of a native's hut tax should 
be remitted as a distinction, upon his showing that he had been 
a certain time absent from his home in employment. This 
would directly promote labour by encouragement, and this 
would effect more than the mere value of the remission. 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

"The introduction of legislation modifying the native Land- 
Tenure System was generally approved, mainly for the reason 
that, while the present facilities for obtaining land exist, the 
native is in a position to meet his wants and his small need for 
money by the sale of the produce of his land. This point was 
emphasised by experienced witnesses, well acquainted with 
the native question. The details suggested naturally differed, 
some witnesses supporting the maintenance of present native 
areas under the system of individual land tenure, while others 
held the view that native settlements near industrial centres 
should be created. Legislation of this character would no 
doubt have a far-reaching effect ultimately, but in order to be 
effective it should be generally applied throughout South 
Africa, and even when so applied its results upon the labour 
supply in the country would only become apparent after a 
considerable lapse of time. It is probable, however, such 
changes would eventually become effective and cause a num- 
ber of surplus natives to seek work outside their settlements. 

"Considerable difference of opinion was expressed as to the 
effect of the native's present tribal system upon the labour 
supply, some witnesses supporting the abrogation, while 
others held that it should be maintained on the ground that the 
maintenance of communal responsibility was an advantage 
which should be strengthened rather than weakened. 

"The abolition of native locations and of native reserves like 
Basutoland, Swaziland, etc., and the expropriation of the land 
for white settlements, was also suggested as well as proposals 
for the distribution of the natives on the land held by white 
owners. The suggested creation of settlements of natives near 
towns, which found support at the Bloemf ontein Conference, 
was, in the main, opposed by witnesses who gave evidence be- 
fore the Commission, mainly on the ground that its conse- 
quent evils would outweigh its advantageous effect on the 
labour supply." 

Here, fortunately, the members of the Commission itself were 
moved, possibly by conscience, to express an opinion which was 
rare for its good sense, and remarkable for its feelings of justice 
and the rightful balance of State matters. 



BLACK BUSINESS 

"It will be seen [says the Commission] that the more 
weighty proposals put forward to improve the labour supply 
recommended that the existing native social system should be 
attacked with the object of modifying or destroying it. 
Marriage and family ties, native laws of succession, inheritance 
and ownership are bound up indissolubly with the existing 
tenure of land and native tribal system, and to weaken or de- 
stroy the existing basis of native Society clearly involves social 
consequences of the gravest and most far-reaching character. 

"It may be said, generally, that, in our opinion, such changes 
should not be considered from the standpoint of their effect 
on the labour supply. The existing relationships between 
the white and black races are more important than a full 
supply of African labour for local industries, and modifica- 
tions of these relations, the effect of which will probably be 
felt for generations, should be fully considered from these 
wider points of view before adoption. Even, however, if such 
changes are made, their effect upon the labour market will not 
be rapid, and can only be appreciably felt after a considerable 
interval." 

The one funny thing about this austere Commission was that 
under its terms of reference it was called upon only to report on 
the amount of labor available to the industry. On the last page 
it found that the supply available was inadequate. 

But the mills of a Government Commission, like the mills of 
God, grind slowly, and in the meantime the labor crisis in the 
mining industry had reached dangerous proportions. In despera- 
tion the Rand decided that, as it could not obtain black workmen 
from Africa, it must get brown, yellow or white workmen from 
somewhere else. The only qualification, of course, was that they 
should be cheap. After casting about in Italy, Germany, India 
and other countries, it was finally decided that a contract be 
entered into with China for the supply of labor to the Rand. 

Accordingly, in June, 1904, the first batch of Chinese laborers 
arrived in the Transvaal, and their disappearance down the black 
shafts of the Rand mines was a signal for a furious outburst of 
protest from all over the world. English politicians promised their 

[159] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

electors to have this Chinese slavery abolished. South Africa 
shouted hoarsely against the Yellow Peril, and gave vivid and 
disturbing pictures of the probable fate of all white men at the 
hands of such sinister Orientals. 

The Chinamen went imperturbably to work. Altogether there 
were about sixty thousand of them shipped to South Africa over 
a period of three years. They came mostly from the starved, 
poverty-stricken areas of Northern China. They were tall, well- 
built, silent men with a surprising aptitude for learning the job of 
mining, and an eager, almost pathetic desire to be efficient and 
make good. So strenuously and intelligently did they apply 
themselves to their work that the value of the gold output of the 
mines increased during their employment from a little over twelve 
million pounds to more than twenty-nine million pounds a year. 

Johannesburg became even more hybrid and cosmopolitan in its 
peoples as the soft-slippered feet of the Chinese pattered along the 
streets and their high-pitched, singing voices grew shrill with 
wonderment and incredulity at the displayed shop wares brought, 
after a lifetime of destitution, within their means. 

But, apart altogether from the political propaganda of British 
Liberals, and the nervous, querulous complaints of the South 
African white population, the graver, less hysterical side of South 
Africa saw in the Chinese immigrants another and more serious 
danger than the hypothetical flashing of an Oriental dagger. 

The problem that presented itself through the yellow screen of 
labor satisfaction was the problem of insuring white supremacy. 
There were already eight million black men in the country, which 
in itself was a numerical advantage not to be forgotten. But the 
distribution of races was further complicated by the enormous 
population of Indians imported into the cane-fields of Natal. It 
seemed almost suicidal for a handful of white men purposely to 
surround themselves not only with savage black men and shrewd 
brown men, but also with quick-breeding, intelligent yellow men. 
Even the opposition of the mining industry, which had grown 
weighty with profits, could not cancel out the desire to keep the 
country's problems as simplified and clearly defined as possible. 

[160] 



BLACK BUSINESS 

South Africa could not take the risk of harboring this dangerous 
triangle of color. The natives were the natural people of the 
country, and could not be turned out The Indians had been 
specially imported and deposited in Natal to work the sugar-fields, 
and it was too late now to remove them. The Chinamen must 
go. And so the Government ordered the repatriation of the 
Chinese laborers. The crowded ships that brought them, happy 
and elated at the prospect of work on the Rand, took back heavy 
cargoes of dejected and unhappy people. The last of them left in 
1910, and the "Yellow Peril" was thus removed from the shores 
of the country. 

This left the mining industry back in its old position of having 
to rely upon the native. The balance of power, however, had 
changed very considerably by this time. The separate States of 
the country had been amalgamated in 1909 into the Union of 
South Africa, with a Central Parliament to conduct the affairs of 
a joint nation. The richest of the four provinces in the new Union 
was the Transvaal, and the richness of the Transvaal was due 
absolutely and entirely to the gold-mining industry. The Rand 
was now in a strong financial position. It was employing hun- 
dreds of thousands of people, buying enormous quantities of stores 
and machinery, and entirely supporting the town of Johannes- 
burg. On the birth of the Union, the Transvaal was unostenta- 
tiously expected to balance any deficits incurred by the other three 
provinces, to keep the Treasury healthy, and the fanners who 
formed the vast majority of electors as quiet as South African 
fanners can be kept which, at the best of times, is noisy. 

The voice of the mining industry was treated with the respect 
accorded to a wealthy and irascible man by his less fortunate but 
still hopeful colleagues, and when the Rand demanded that its 
labor requirements should be attended to, the demand was heard 
with no small measure of attention by the Union Government 

It is, perhaps, difficult to say whether the Natives Land Act of 
1913 was the direct outcome of the proposals embodied in the 
incredibly vulgar Report of that earlier Commission of 1906. 
But when that evidence is remembered, it requires no straining of 

[161] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

the imagination to find a relationship, so strong as to resemble 
that of parent and child, between the original suggestion and the 
eventual enactment. The work of the 1906 Commission seems, 
after all, to have been useful to someone. 

The Natives Land Act of 1913 has been described many times 
by bold historians and sincere negrophilists as the most potent 
evil in the entire social structure of South Africa. It is regarded 
by those few people who do not retain the vivid dislike of the 
black man, inherited from the early days, that flourishing relic of 
the master-above-slave attitude so briefly and pleasantly known 
as the "Color Bar," as the worst piece of legislation ever intro- 
duced in a country rich in experimental mistakes. But bold 
historians are rare, sincere negrophilists are shunned as Commu- 
nists, and the people who do not carry the badge of Color Bar are 
as scarce as the people of Italy who do not carry a badge of Fascism. 
The Natives Land Act prospers. 

This law prohibited the natives from buying or renting any 
land in the country other than that set apart in specially reserved 
areas. This, when put into effect, meant that a large number of 
natives were ejected from the lands they occupied and were forced 
to settle in prescribed areas. It was more serious to the native than 
the white man cared to imagine. This law prohibiting Him from 
buying or renting land in the great wild country of his ancestors 
filled the native with superstitious horror. He believed that his 
place was on that land in which the bones of his father and his 
forefathers lay buried. He believed that if he moved away from 
his proper home the spirits of his ancestors would wreak terrible 
vengeance, and would call down on his head drought, flood, dis- 
ease and death. He believed that he was tied spiritually and 
pinned by the soul to the earth he had known. 

But with slow inevitability the Act of 1913 forced its way into 
the lives of the native people. They were ejected from lands which 
they regarded as their own, and were made to occupy defined 
areas. Some of these reserves were barren and as unfruitful as the 
desert. Others were malarial and swampy. The fertile districts 
set aside became overcrowded with natives seeking some way to 



BLACK BUSINESS 

grow enough food for their needs. The Government hut tax 
pressed heavily upon these poor silent people. They had not the 
money to pay. They could not grow produce to meet their ac- 
count. In Johannesburg there was a jail for defaulters. There 
were the gold mines in Johannesburg, too. These were their 
alternatives. This was their choice. They chose the mines. Once 
more their bare feet wore down curving tracks through the veldt 
and over the mountains as they marched to the Rand, without pro- 
test, without complaint. The stream of laborers poured into the 
mines. The iron stamps threshed the gold out of the rock with re- 
newed activity. The monthly returns were highly satisfactory. 

The organization of native labor on the Rand today is as well- 
oiled and smooth-running as any other piece of mining machinery. 
It is conducted with efficiency under the powerful auspices of 
the Transvaal Chamber of Mines, and the bad old days of in- 
difference verging upon inhumanity which marked the end of 
last century and the beginning of this century have disappeared 
forever. 

The subject of native labor is still rather a delicate topic of con- 
versation, though, in the sanctuaries of the mining world, for so 
much misrepresentation has been made in Europe, mostly by 
well-meaning tourists who passed hurriedly through the Rand on 
their way to Victoria Falls, that the industry is loath to discuss 
lightly a situation which they have done their best to place above 
suspicion. 

No one, not even a Rand economist taken off his guard, will 
admit that the system at present in force is perfect. No one can 
argue that it is in the best traditions of sociology to import three 
hundred thousand workmen into an industry, and to shut all these 
grown men together in compounds where they must live and 
sleep in close intimacy for a year or eighteen months. Such 
methods do not offer the best opportunities for normal behavior 
to the average man. 

But with the rotten foundations planted by an earlier and less 
thoughtful generation, the mining industry of today has built a 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

remarkably satisfactory structure. Satisfaction today, however, 
may lead to controversy and disruptions tomorrow, and the labor 
structure of the Rand mines cannot, or at least should not, be 
thought stable and permanent. The "higher wants" and "civilisa- 
tion" discussed so glibly in that 1906 report have been gradually 
inoculated into the black man during the last thirty years. The 
rush mat and loin-cloth that once satisfied him completely are not 
enough now. He wants trousers like those worn by Tom Mix, and 
a wrist-watch like that of his boss. Tomorrow he will want a four- 
poster bed and a motor-car. He is an apt mimic of his master. 
He is encouraged to spend his money, for this is good for the trade 
of the country. But it is dangerous to urge a man forward along a 
pleasant, shop-lined avenue, only to meet him half-way and order 
htm back into the side streets. It is dangerous to introduce higher 
wants into a man, only to withhold from him the power of real- 
izing them. 

The native mine worker of the Rand has behind him fifty years 
of the white man's civilization. Around him there are all the 
vices and temptations of urban environment temptations which 
are doubly interesting and exciting to a race of people eager, 
curious, anxious to sample every one of the wares of the white 
man, a race just emerging from the shadows or the sunlight of 
ignorance and unsophistication. The metamorphosis of the black 
man on the Rand has been gradual, but great. The only thing in 
his world of change which has remained stable is his wages. 
These have varied Uttle during the last thirty years. Today the 
native mine worker earns about fifty-six shillings and seven pence 
a month. Apparently it is enough for his wants now. But will 
it always be? When, under the able tuition of the white man, he 
has become still more civilized, will he remain satisfied? 

The native worker is as vitally important to the gold mines as 
he ever was. The industry applies itself conscientiously to main- 
taining this delicate piece of machinery in order. Unless, how- 
ever, it has some secret plan up its sleeve, the Rand does not seem 
to have made any provision for the future of this great black na- 
tion which it has brought down from the hills into the under- 



BLACK BUSINESS 

ground tunnels of the earth and the four walls of the compounds. 
The industry appears content to live in a well-organized present. 
There have appeared no signs of planning for the future. Only 
the future can tell whether this is a mistake. 

Today the recruitment of natives is divided between two offi- 
cial bodies under the control of the Chamber of Mines. The 
Native Recruiting Corporation is responsible for South African 
natives, while the Witwatersrand Native Labor Association 
handles the supply from the Portuguese territory of Mozambique, 
with which Government the Union of South Africa has made a 
labor contract for the supply of not more than eighty thousand 
natives. Recruitment is conducted along orthodox lines, for any 
irregularity at all would be pounced upon by angry critics and de- 
nounced from the roof-tops of the world. Before being engaged 
at their homes the natives are medically examined, and the terms 
of their contract are explained to them by the magistrate of the 
district. They still have no alternative but to work in the mines, 
for the native reserves cannot support the black races without the 
money of the Rand. 

"The country," it is stated officially, "cannot from its own reserve 
support all its inhabitants, the greater bulk of whom are peasants 
with small holdings. It may be taken as a fact that at any given 
moment nearly half the able-bodied men whose permanent 
home is in these territories are earning the money for the support 
of their families in areas outside the territories." 

On arrival in Johannesburg the natives are accommodated in a 
great clearing-house, before being allocated to individual mining 
companies, whose property they remain for the term of their 
contract. This is usually about eighteen months, and at the end 
of this time the native is free to return to his kraal until he is forced 
by economic necessity to become a mine laborer again. 

Those visitors to the Rand who are interested in the work of 
the mining industry are usually conducted round the compounds 
at Crown Mines, because these are the show compounds of the 
Reef. Other mines are given less publicity in this direction, be- 
cause they have some distance to go before reaching the standard 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

of modernity, hygiene and cleanliness set by Crown Mines. 

Every native mine worker on the Rand is given free board and 
lodging. Before going on shift at about five o'clock in the morn- 
ing he is offered either coffee or gruel, and sausage. But as a rule 
he is unwilling to eat at this time of the day, and is content to take 
a small square of bread underground with him* He has no more to 
eat until he returns to the compound at about five o'clock in the 
afternoon after a hard day's work. Then he is given his evening 
meal. At Crown Mines this consists of six pints of Marewu, 
which is a sort of gruel made from fermented meal; a ration of 
hard porridge; beans and mealies mixed together, and stewed 
meat with vegetables introduced surreptitiously, for he does not 
care for greenstuffs. 

Three times a week he is given one pound of raw meat to cook 
in his room in any manner he chooses. Three times a week he is 
given a ration of monkey nuts and two pints of kaffir beer, made 
from kaffir corn malt and containing about two and one-fourth per 
cent alcohol. He is also provided with Fanko, which is made 
from crushed white mealies, and somewhat resembles rice. 

At Crown Mines, where this system of feeding is in force, there 
are twenty-four thousand natives employed and housed. They 
are lodged in six great brick compounds, adjoining the different 
shaft-heads. Each tribe is separated in the compounds in order 
to eliminate, as far as possible, the danger of tribal fights which 
usually, once started, assume serious proportions. The mine 
laborer sleeps on a cement bunk in a small room with nine other 
natives. Apart from a small paraffin stove there is no furniture. 
It is not difficult in the compound to distinguish the sleeping 
accommodation of the new recruit from that of the old and tried 
worker, for the bunk of the latest arrival is always upholstered with 
his own personal pieces of rag and cloth, while the more ex- 
perienced man has hastily indulged himself in the luxury of 
buying a cheap mattress made, usually, from paper. The rooms 
are built in a square on the edge of a bare cemented rectangle. 
This is the playground of the black men. It is here that they 
squat on their haunches in their few leisure hours, combing one 

[166] 



BLACK BUSINESS 

another's hair, patching trousers, gossiping and singing their 
rhythmic native melodies. Crown Mines is an example set by 
enterprising teachers to a class which does its homework slowly 
and laboriously, and lags stolidly behind. It is a lesson which the 
whole Reef would do well to learn. 

There is a cinema show once a week for the Crown Mines em- 
ployees, and these great strong black men go into rhapsodies of 
native delight at any actor approaching the standards of Camera, 
Al Capone, Hoot Gibson, or King Kong. They are just as noisy 
in expressing their disapproval of the slick bedroom comedies and 
witty sex situations which left the Hollywood studios many years 
back, but have only now filtered down to an audience of native 
mine workers. 

Elaborate wireless apparatus and loud-speakers are installed in 
the compounds, and Sir Thomas Beecham, relayed with other rec- 
ords from the manager's office, at last receives the quiet attention 
he begs. The radio is also used to deliver talks on first-aid, hygiene 
and safety-first measures to be employed in the mine. 

Each underground worker is supplied with a free tunic and a 
pair of puttees, to prevent the occurrence of diseases such as tetanus 
and blood poisoning which arise from the many cuts and abrasions 
received during mining operations. At the end of the day, when 
the natives return from work, all those who have sustained any 
sort of minor injury are made to report for treatment, and at eve- 
ning dozens of crushed fingers, cuts and gashes are lined up for a 
dab of iodine and a piece of sticking-plaster in the little office at 
the entrance to the compound. Serious accident cases are removed 
to a hospital at the expense of the industry. 

It is essential for the mine worker to wear boots underground, 
and the native is obliged to buy these from the mines at a cost of 
thirteen shillings and two pence a pair. When he is first recruited 
from the outlying districts, the native is given an advance pay- 
ment of about two pounds, which money he usually leaves at 
home with his family. His rail fare to Johannesburg and the cost 
of his boots are debited to him, and these loans, including the 
advance, must be paid as soon as possible from his wages. How- 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

ever, it is laid down that he must draw a minimum of ten shillings 
a month until his debts are liquidated. At Crown Mines the sys- 
tem of deferred pay is in force which provides that thirty shillings 
a month from the wages of each native shall be paid to the magis- 
trate of his particular district to be collected by his family. 

When the day's work is done, the native is permitted by the 
mine authorities to leave the compound when he has obtained a 
pass from the office. This pass is issued by Government regula- 
tion to all natives to cover the period from ten P.M. to four A.M., 
and must be produced on request of the police. But he is too 
tired, as a rule, to walk into town, and he cannot ride in the buses 
or trams. 

So with the fall of night he turns gratefully to his cement bunk. 

He is a long way from home, but it does not matter so much 
now, for he is protected and cared for by an industry which has, 
with the passing of the years, found a heart as well as a brain. 



Its*} 



CHAPTER VII 

WHITE HEAT 

BLACK WAS NOT THE ONLY COLOR THAT STOOD FOR ANXIETY IN THE 

mines in the first part of this century. White was to prove far 
more dangerous as the emblem of upraised arm, loaded gun 
revolution. 

Up to the time of the Great War, the white miners of the Wit- 
watersrand were, in the main, a peaceful band of workers. The 
early ignorant miner had been replaced by a laborer more con- 
scious of his job, more skilled in its performance and less arrogant 
in his general attitude. Until the formation of Trades Unions and 
similar protective societies, the white miner of the Rand was con- 
tent to complete his sheet, draw his wage and let the devil take the 
hindmost. But when the objects and ambitions of Trades Union- 
ism were preached, he began to realize that his position as a soli- 
tary, lone worker in a vast powerful industry was insecure, subject 
to the control of unseen, unapproachable authorities, and worthless 
without the power that an organized body of workers could wield* 
He became a sincere believer in the policy of protection, and a 
rapid convert to the legitimate ranks of Trades Unionism. 

It was in 1913 that this organized policy of protection was first 
put to a real test. 

The trouble all arose about three hours and five men. 

On the Kleinfontein Mine the underground mechanics had 
always worked from half-past seven in the morning till half -past 
three on weekdays, and from half -past seven to half-past twelve 
on Saturdays. When Bulman was appointed manager of the 
mine, he decided to alter these conditions, and proposed that the 
hours of work for the mechanics should be the same as those for 
all miners. Accordingly he gave instructions that the five 
mechanics of the mine should work until half-past three every 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

afternoon, including Saturdays, without extra pay. His conten- 
tion was that as the mechanics were in charge of the different 
working gears, they should be on duty while the gears were run- 
ning. 

The five men concerned, however, insisted on a half-holiday on 
Saturday, and would not agree to the change. 

They were discharged. 

The Amalgamated Society of Engineers interested itself in this 
controversy, and a notice was posted at the Kleinf ontein Mine that 
no member of the Association was to descend the mine until 
further notice. Then followed a long series of interviews be- 
tween the workers' representatives and the mine authorities. The 
conversations were friendly and amicable, and there was no hint 
of any real trouble. The notice of the Amalgamated Society of 
Engineers posted at the mine was taken down, and genuine en- 
deavors were made to find a way out of the difficulty. Mr. Bulman 
thought that on Saturday the men might all start work earlier and 
knock off earlier, so that a shift of eight hours could be completed 
every day of the week. 

A ballot of the underground men was taken, and by a majority 
of four votes it was resolved that Bulman's suggestion should be 
adopted, and that work on Saturday morning should begin earlier. 
But Bui man, for some reason, decided that the voting majority 
was not large enough to justify a change, and he declared his 
intention of adhering to his original proposal that work should be 
continued until half-past three on Saturdays. Quite naturally, 
this did not satisfy the five men or their representatives. A further 
ballot was taken, and this resulted in a resolution to strike. All 
the men on the Kleinf ontein Mine left their work, and operations 
came to a complete standstill. 

Now, Bulman had made a constitutional mistake. In declar- 
ing the immediate imposition of an extra three hours' work on 
Saturday, he had transgressed a section of the Industrial Disputes 
Act, as he had not given the required month's notice of a change 
in the hours of work. When his attention was drawn to this fact, 
be hastily tried to rectify his error by posting a notice giving a 



WHITE HEAT 

month's warning of his intention to make all employees work until 
half-past three on Saturday. 

The miners were still out on strike. 

Within two or three days the Minister of Mines had come to hear 
of the dispute, and he telegraphed to the Kleinfontein manage- 
ment, advising them to withdraw the notice, and yield the original 
point to the workers. This, the telegram said, would deprive the 
men of their excuse to remain on strike. It should be explained 
to the management, the Minister of Mines added, that owing to 
their illegal and precipitate action industrial peace throughout the 
industry was endangered, and the moral responsibility for this 
situation rested with the Company. 

The Kleinfontein Company knew that they had made a mis- 
take. But again they acted in a very extraordinary manner. They 
ignored the men and their Society, and addressed a letter instead 
to the deputy-mayor of Benoni and the local press admitting their 
error, and stating that the management was prepared to revert to 
the hours that were in force before the dispute arose. They offered, 
in this letter, to reinstate all their employees, and undertook to see 
that there would be no victimization. 

The Strike Committee naturally enough again were angry 
at the procedure of the management, and when, at last, overtures 
for a settlement of the controversy were made direct to them, these 
were scornfully rejected. 

The miners were now filled with resentment at the behavior of 
the Kleinfontein Company, and they increased their demands. 
First, they insisted on the abolition of all Saturday afternoon work. 
Then they demanded the instant introduction of an Eight Hours 
Bill. By adopting this course, they converted what was purely a 
domestic quarrel into a political issue. The Kleinfontein Com- 
pany had no power, whatever, to pass an Eight Hours Bill. This 
was Government business, and the miners were well aware of it. 

However, the Kleinfontein Company proceeded to make its 
'third blunder. The Mining Authorities refused to see any repre- 
sentatives of the Strike Committee, or the Trades Union, other 
than the mine's own employees. The company's argument was 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

that the dispute was a personal quarrel between the mine manage- 
ment and its men, and that they could not allow a third party to 
interfere between them and their servants. This actually was 
nonsense, for the Kleinfontein Company was not independent of 
the Chamber of Mines, and could never act in a dispute of this 
kind without taking into consideration all the mining companies 
along the Reef. A quarrel between Kleinfontein and its em- 
ployees was a quarrel between the Kleinfontein miners and the 
Witwatersrand industry as a whole. 

In reply to the argument put forward by the management 
against receiving a deputation from the Strike Committee, the 
workers firmly maintained that they should be represented by 
independent men who need neither fear nor fawn upon the 
directorate or the management of the mine. 

Here was deadlock. Here was the reason why the Kleinfon- 
tein Strike could never be settled peacefully. 

The Minister of Mines declared that the Government must re- 
main absolutely impartial, and that it could not express any 
opinion on the Kleinfontein affair. The Minister reiterated that 
as the company, by its initial tactlessness, had caused the trouble, 
it was for them to settle the dispute in the best possible manner. 
He thought that, in this instance, the company's directors should 
meet the employees, accompanied by any persons elected by the 
workers, whether or not they were Trades Union officials. The 
company, he suggested, could well regard such delegates as repre- 
sentatives of the men, and not as representatives of the Trades 
Unions. 

In the meantime, the miners, made still more angry by the 
knowledge that they were right, waited for the next move. It 
came from the company. A notice was posted directed to the 
workers on the mine-head by the management. This stated that 
the company was willing to reinstate every man who had come 
out on strike or had been discharged in connection with the dis- 
pute; the mine would revert to the old Saturday hours for under- 
ground mechanics; provided the full shift of eight hours was 
worked, the company would allow the men to finish earlier on 



WHITE HEAT 

Saturday if the majority wished; the company would only meet 
representatives of the employees; there would be no victimization. 

The notice concluded with the information that those miners 
who did not return to work within five days would not be taken 
on again. 

This declaration by the company was taken by the miners as an 
ultimatum to return to the old conditions within five days or be 
locked out while new men filled their jobs. No man not even a 
miner likes to be threatened, and when he has stood out for what 
he considered his rights, he is unwilling to forgo his principles 
and meekly follow in the backwash of a warning. 

The men of Kleinfontein decided by an overwhelming majority 
to disregard the ultimatum and to remain on strike. Events 
inarched quickly now. The strikers were paid off by the mine 
and fresh men were introduced to continue working operations. 

The dispute had entered upon a new phase. It was a trial of 
strength between the company and its former employees. As 
the Kleinfontein action was now guided by the combination of 
mining houses along the Reef, the strikers could not hope to win 
their batde unless they could bring about a general strike. Isolated 
action, they knew, would be counteracted by the authorities 
through the employment of scabs, and they themselves would not 
only suffer a political defeat, but would be left ingloriously to 
overcome unemployment. 

There was no way back now. There must be a general strike. 
They started by inciting the men on the Van Ryn Mine to come 
out. Up till this time the strikers had been good-humored but 
determined in their actions. Now, however, they began to use 
every effort to hamper the industry. Natives were incited to strike, 
and were persuaded to demand more money and less work. If, the 
black men were warned, they dared to work in the mines with the 
strike-breakers, they would be blown up with dynamite. But it 
took a long time to persuade the natives to challenge the authority 
of the white man, and it was not until long after the story of Klein- 
fontein had been ended that the natives in many mine compounds 
found courage to follow the advice of the strikers. Then they 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

refused to work without an increase in wages. Then they dis- 
regarded orders and prepared themselves for a stand-up fight with 
the police. Mounted men were called in, but this did not 
frighten them. It was not until a company of soldiers attacked 
the natives with fixed bayonets that they were quelled. They went 
back to work quietly after this, and the Rand was delivered from 
its most horrid dread a massed native rising. 

In the meantime, at Kleinfontein, the strikers held meetings 
continuously, and under the influence of inflammatory talk the 
tempers of the men were fanned into flames. Acts of petty violence 
constantly took place, and the magistrate at the mining village of 
Benoni issued a proclamation at the request of the police pro- 
hibiting assemblies of more than six people in the streets and 
public squares. Despite this proclamation a large meeting of 
strikers was called for the purpose of inducing a general strike 
right along the Reef. When the meeting had ended, bands of 
strikers marched from mine to mine pulling out the workers by 
force, and leaving the properties abandoned. Then a monster 
meeting was called for, to take place on the Market Square of 
Johannesburg, partly to celebrate this event, and partly to incite 
all workers of the Rand to a general strike. 

At the appointed day several hundred people collected at the 
Square, and the police were present in large numbers to prevent 
disorder. This annoyed the mob, who began to stone the police 
and pelt them with broken bottles, sticks and iron bars. Their 
aim was good. Several members of the force were severely 
wounded. 

The order was given, and the crowd was charged. They melted 
away before the rearing hoofs of the horses and the slashing batons 
of the uniformed riders. But as the Market Square emptied, so 
the Central Railway Station filled* The mob had swarmed in 
their hundreds on to the platforms with the single object of de- 
stroying the trains. Several of the crowd were armed with re- 
volvers, and those who had no guns had hastily equipped them- 
selves with the nearest and heaviest weapons. After cutting open 
mail-bags, letting loose post-office horses, and stoning the police 



WHITE HEAT 

again, the mob set light to the station, and happily watched it 
burn to the ground. On they went, then, to the offices of the Star 
newspaper, gathering on their way all the hooligans and ruffians 
of the town. They sent a myriad of Stars up in a sheet of flame, and 
when the fire was impossible to subdue, they continued their 
frenzied career along the streets toward Corner House, the offices 
of Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company. Here they 
met with armed opposition from the police, but they put up a 
spirited defense with the revolvers and rifles they had looted from 
adjacent gunsmiths. 

When they tired of Corner House and police opposition, they 
poured in a great mass toward the Rand Club, the prosperous 
background of the town's most important business men and min- 
ing magnates. Here again the police made a firm stand, but the 
strikers hid in doorways and alleyways, and kept up a steady 
sniping attack across the main streets of Johannesburg. This went 
on for a long time. 

Then suddenly a man detached himself from the mob. He 
came out into the open road and dared the police in a loud voice 
to fire at him. They would not do it They dared not do it A 
roar of insults and jeers against the law went up from the crowd. 
The police were silent. The tall figure of the striker strode on 
across the empty street. He took off his coat He shouted his 
challenge again. The crowd hissed and gibed. The law dared 
not fire. On walked the solitary figure on toward the police. 
Once more he shouted his challenge. 

"Shoot^ you cowards!" 

There was silence. 

It was broken when a single bullet screeched through the air. 
For an instant the striker stood motionless. Then he fell in a 
huddled heap in the road. 

The mob were strangely quiet They pressed back away from 
the body of the dead man. They were shocked and horrified; 
they were made aware of their position. A whispered conference 
in the ranks of the crowd, a white flag waved over the breathless 
figure in the still dark street, and the strike was over. 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

This, then, was the prelude. This was the curtain-raiser that 
ushered in the principal play on the bill. It proved to be drama. 

The interval between curtain-raiser and play seems long, but is 
brief in the theater of grease-paint, lines and dummy teapots. 
The interval on the moving stage of ordinary actors and everyday 
plots seems brief, but is long. 

It was eight years before the curtain went up again on the 
Rand. 

For some years after the European War the growth of unrest 
among the white miners of the Witwatersrand had spread like 
cancer. Before and during the war there had been a great exodus 
of skilled workers from the gold mines. They had dropped their 
drills to take up bayonets; they had discarded their dirty overalls 
for the decorous and proud uniform of khaki. They fought now 
for other men's blood, and not for their own rights. Principles 
were left lying in the mud and slush at the bottom of the mines, 
as the workers marched away to the sound of patriotic cheering. 

The empty places they left on the Reef were filled by young 
South Africans, most of whom came in response to the call of the 
industry from the outlying half-forgotten districts of the country. 
These young men were untaught and untrained. They had been 
brought up on dusty derelict farms, and had been glad enough to 
earn a few shillings when the rains were good and the crops, 
untouched by locust or drought, had been left standing. The 
salaries they were offered by the mines were far in excess of any 
money they had ever handled, and to such men the sudden acquisi- 
tion of this wealth was more heady than absinthe. 

They all became members of a Trades Union, for the ritual and 
power of such organizations were as exciting to the young back- 
velder as the Ku Klux Klan. Trades Unionism was to him a toy 
pistol which he grasped eagerly without waiting to inquire how 
it worked. He imagined that he had only to point his pistol at 
the heads of his employers to bring them to surrender. Thus 
armed, he was master of the situation. 

The mining industry was not only amiable and tolerant, but it 

[1763 



WHITE HEAT 

accorded the Trades Unions the fullest recognition and support. 
The industry was unwilling to employ any man who was not a 
member of some such society, and it went to the length of assisting 
the Trades Unions by deducting the subscriptions of its employees 
from the mine pay-sheets. And as long as the economic position of 
the industry made it possible for the owners to accede to the re- 
quests of the workers, they gave in to all demands. They were 
naturally anxious to avoid any controversy which would put a 
stop to mining operations, for this was a very costly business; and 
they were careful to prevent, as long as they could, the chaos of 
a strike. 

So the Trades Unions grew in power and importance. Elab- 
orate machinery was devised to obtain as much control as possible 
over the employers, and the bandit tastes of the young members 
were pandered to by the election of officers with high-sounding 
names and ranks. This, for a while, made the game interesting 
for the lusty young laborers. Then they grew tired and wanted 
fresh excitement. The toy pistol was charged with paper pellets. 
They wanted real bullets. The moderate Trades Unionist, with 
his conscientious regard for constitutional measures, was regarded 
as a bore. The extremist who shouted bravely, and a little madly, 
was a great success. 

The mining industry continued to give way. 

But with the coming of the European War the economic posi- 
tion of the gold mines of the Rand, in common with all other 
industries, changed very considerably. Before the war the mines 
had been in a healthy financial position. They were covering their 
heavy costs of production, and they were practically all making a 
profit. The universal disturbance of prices, however, had a most 
injurious effect upon the gold mines. Costs of production rose 
sharply, but the selling price of their product, the price of gold, 
remained stationary for nearly five years after the outbreak of the 
war. In 1920 the price of gold increased to one hundred and thirty 
shillings; then, after fluctuating, it began to fall again. On the 
other hand, the costs of mining a ton of ore had risen by more 
than thirty-nine per cent between 1913 and 1921. 

[1773 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

Now, gold does not, as is commonly supposed, occur in the 
Rand in great heavy nuggets and rich thick veins. It is scattered 
through the rock as finely and sparingly as talc powder on a 
bathroom floor. The Witwatersrand is a low-grade industry. Six 
or eight pennyweights of gold in a ton of rock was a good average 
yield. Sometimes the returns were higher, sometimes lower. But 
the industry made its profits, not like an exclusive Bond Street 
jeweler, but by using the old formula of mass-production. It 
could only hope to show a profit by crushing hundreds and hun- 
dreds of tons of rock a day. When, however, it cost twenty-three 
shillings to crush one ton of rock which yielded twenty-eight 
shillings worth of gold, the margin of safety was small, and could 
be afforded only by the richer properties. The poorer mines with 
many tons of barren rock and a very sparse ore content in their 
gold-bearing reef were at the mercy of working costs, and when in 
1921 the price of crushing one ton of ore rose to twenty-six shillings, 
seven mines Luipaardsvlei Estate, Geldenhuis Deep, Durban 
Roodepoort Deep, New Goch Gold Mines, Randfontein Central, 
Village Deep, and Simmer and Jack were all producing their 
gold at a loss. The threatened further fall in the price of gold 
menaced the lives of twenty-four other mines, and only seventeen 
companies were able to face a trembling survival. 

There could be but two forms of relief an increase in the price 
of gold, or a decrease in the costs of production. Since the price of 
gold was dependent upon economic circumstances which could 
not be controlled, the mines realized that, in order to survive, they 
must decrease costs of production. 

Accordingly, in November, 1921, they proposed the introduction 
of three economy measures to the South African Industrial Federa- 
tion. First, they suggested altering the then existing contract 
system; secondly, they proposed a reorganization of underground 
work; and thirdly, they advocated the modification of the status 
quo agreement. 

Under the contract system miners sometimes earned as much as 
two hundred pounds a month. The rearrangement of under- 
ground work was merely an attempt to secure greater efficiency 






Drilling into the clearly defined gold reef thousands of feet below the 
surface at Modderfontein "B." 




They have less than eighteen inches in which to work their eight-hour 
shift in this section of Van Ryn Deep. 



WHITE HEAT 

from both white and black labor forces. But It was the status quo 
agreement and its suggested alteration that caused the trouble. 
This agreement had been made as a temporary measure three 
years earlier. At the time it was negotiated certain work for ex- 
ample, drill sharpening was on some mines conducted by white 
men, and on other mines by natives. The Mine Workers' Union 
had demanded that the natives employed on drill sharpening be 
dismissed, and their places filled by white men. The Chamber of 
Mines had refused to agree to this, and it was arranged that, for 
the time, the jobs held by colored employees should be continued 
to be so held. That is to say, if a native were employed on drill 
sharpening, or other work, the Unions could not claim that this 
work should be done by a white man, and, conversely, if a white 
man were at that time employed in the adjoining mine on drill 
sharpening or other work, the mine could not claim that it should 
be done by a colored man. 

The arrangement had been interpreted by the Trades Unions 
to mean that if, for example, two separate gangs of natives, each 
under the charge of a separate native boss-boy, were each also 
under the nominal supervision of a white man, the industry was 
debarred from dismissing one of the white men and placing both 
gangs under the supervision of the other. 

The attitude of the Chamber of Mines was that the industry 
was being prevented from discharging superfluous and redundant 
workers. 

This, then, was the position when the mines made their pro- 
posals to the Industrial Federation. 

It marked the beginning of a series of events which not only 
nearly wrecked the life of the Rand, but narrowly missed altering 
the entire course of South African history. 

On receiving the economy suggestions of the Chamber of Mines, 
the workers began a furious campaign against the industry. The 
rebel leaders of the Trades Unions told crowded meetings of 
young members that the proposals of the industry constituted a 
veiled attempt to substitute cheap black labor for white. Nothing 
could have been more effective than the waving of this black flag 

[179] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

before the red bull. The miners, snorting with rage, stamped 
their defiance of the mine owners, and bellowed their support 
of the extremist's policy of a White South Africa. The imagined 
indignity and humiliation of a black survival rocked the workers 
with a passionate anger, which spread among the people as fast 
as any unleashed spirit of revolt. Trades Union leaders, carried 
far from the safety of the shore on waves of eloquence and aggres- 
sion, beckoned to the workers to follow, and they waded far out 
of their depth into the warm seas of revolution. 

Soon every miner on the Rand had joined the surge of aggres- 
sion. Meetings held night after night purposely fed the feelings 
of the miners, and the speeches woven round the shadowy form 
of the black man and the ogre outline of the mine owners were 
uncurbed and quite unrestrained. Big processions of workers 
marched through the streets of Johannesburg demanding by 
placard and banner that South Africa be kept for the white man. 
Woman and children helped their menfolk, and the public places 
were filled with falling insults. 

The negotiations which had started between the Chamber of 
Mines and the Trades Unions became more and more bitter. The 
meetings of workmen continued. The speeches spun up into a 
crescendo of antagonism. The frocked figure of the Church 
entered the crowded halls to lend moral and religious encourage- 
ment to the theme of revolution. 

'The Government is only prepared to do what the Chamber of 
Mines tells them," said one reverend gentleman on the steps of 
the Town Hall. 

"In order to fill their pockets, the Chamber of Mines are murder- 
ing the workers; if the Color Bar is abolished, the souls as well 
as the bodies of the workers will be murdered, and the authority of 
the white race in South Africa will come to an end." 

Young workers who had never before tasted the blood of real 
battle hungrily swallowed these and other revolutionary meats. 
Their older comrades who had returned from the Great War 
lusted again for action, and for the opportunity to display their 
experience and knowledge, 

[180] 



WHITE HEAT 

The majority o the miners were Dutchmen or Afrikanders, and 
these men were hysterical in their denunciation of the Govern- 
ment, for the South African Party, largely representing the 
English-speaking classes and led by General Smuts, was in power 
at the time. They spat at the name of the Chamber of Mines, and 
were encouraged fully in this attitude by their leaders. And so, 
imperceptibly, the movement which had started purely as an in- 
dustrial disturbance was appropriated by scheming men with 
political ambitions, and was subtly molded into a revolutionary 
uprising to overthrow and conquer the country in order to form 
a Dutch Republic. 

The agitators were openly encouraged by Parliamentary mem- 
bers of the opposition, and by Afrikanders all over the country, 
who were anxious to see Smuts and his Government completely 
routed and a Republic established. The mass of mine laborers 
was being used now as a fiery brand to light the way to a political 
and bloody revolution, but they in their hysteria hardly realized 
what was happening. They had almost forgotten the status quo 
agreement. They were overwhelmed by the bigger target of 
Capitalism, and they welcomed into their army any man who ex- 
pressed a fierce hatred of the ruling classes. 

The ranks were swollen and the list of leaders augmented by 
the introduction into the movement of Communists, working, it 
seems, under direct instructions from Soviet Russia. The object 
of these Communists was to seize upon the ready-made weapon at 
their hands in order to bring about an armed uprising of the na- 
tives, abolish the Color Bar and inaugurate a workers* revolution 
for the establishment of a Soviet Republic. 

Thus the same miners who had marched through the streets 
demanding a White South Africa, now attended the meetings 
presided over by Communistic native champions, and applauded 
their new comrades vociferously. Any man who wanted to over- 
throw the Government and destroy the capitalists was a comrade 
and a friend, no matter what method of procedure he proposed. 
The Communist Party of South Africa, true to the doctrines of the 
Third International, prepared to bring within their fold the great 

[181] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

black hordes of oppressed people. They fastened on to the fruitful 
mass of native workers, using pamphlets, circulars and eloquent 
exhortations. 

"Workers of the World, Unite!" they urged. 
"You have nothing to lose but your chains!" 
"You have a world to win!" 

"No matter though you are different in colour, you are one 
in kind with the workers of the world. All those who work 
for wages are becoming one great brotherhood of labour. 
The workers of the world are uniting to dethrone the masters 
of the world that is, the capitalist class. You, Bantu people, 
will share in the great deliverance that is bound to come. 
You, Bantu workers, must also unite to help in the great de- 
liverance of the people from the masters of the world. 

"In Russia the workers and poor peasant people have united. 
They are great in number. They have shaken their chains to 
the earth like dew; they have entered into possession of the 
land and the wonderful machines for making the good things 
of life. And to-day they own them in common, just as Bantu 
owned the land in common in days gone by. The black work- 
ers of India are uniting. They are joining with the workers 
of the world. And they call upon you Bantu workers to do 
the same." 

And again: 

"To-day the Bantu people are no longer free and strong. 
No longer may they roam at their own free will over the wide 
veldt land and till the earth in common. To-day the earth 
belongs to the white masters of the world, and the Bantu 
people must labour long for low wages to get food and money 
to pay the taxes. Once they laboured for themselves: now 
they labour for masters. Small is the land that is now left 
to the Bantu people. And this is given to them to hold in com- 
mon poverty, that they may produce offspring in plenty and 

[ito] 



WHITE HEAT 

bring forth more and more young labourers for the white 
masters of the world/' 

There were eight million black people in the country, and less 
than one million white men. 

The white men were fighting one another. 

The black man was invited to do battle. 

An ugly, nasty position. 

On January 10, 1922, after prolonged and abortive conferences 
between the workers' representatives and the Chamber of Mines, 
a strike was declared on all the gold mines of the Witwatersrand, 
and in the subsidiary organizations, such as the Victoria Falls 
Power Station, and the town engineering shops. Twenty-four 
thousand white workers were called out. But the natives hung 
back. They remembered the fruitless and inglorious finish to 
the 1914 strike; they were ignorant of the political stakes at issue, 
, and were indifferent to the plots of Boer versus the Rest; they had 
thoroughly re-absorbed their fears and obediences for the white 
man, irrespective of his nationality; they preferred to remain on 
the powerfully armed side of law and order. 

A large section of the South African Law and Order were 
Afrikanders whose sympathies rested entirely with the political 
aims of the strikers, and great numbers of police and soldiers, not 
only in the Transvaal, but also in the Cape and Free State, had 
privately decided to side with the rebels in the hour of crisis. 
With the unofficial knowledge of this backing, the strikers were 
confident of success. 

Had it not been for the European War of 1914, the story of the 
Rand Revolution might have been different As it was, though, 
large bodies of South African miners who had fought with the 
Allies were childishly anxious now to practice the methods of 
warfare with which they were so familiar. Young, inexperienced 
men with glowing accounts of engagement, encounter and victory 
still fresh in their minds needed little persuasion to join the 
regimental movement. Commandos of strikers were formed, and 
all men entered again into the spirit of soldiery. Regular drills 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

under competent instructors were practiced. Each force of work- 
ers had its own selected officers, who wore the badges of their 
rank. Some were mounted. There were cyclist corps and ambu- 
lance corps, an intelligence system was inaugurated, and a signal- 
ing unit established. There was no nonsense. This was the 
closest possible imitation of the real thing. A month after the 
strike had been called, a General Staff had been established and 
regiments of women were formed to assist the men by pulling out 
scabs, by force if necessary. 

At first the stated objects of the Commandos were the protection 
of the interests of the workers and their families, but as the army 
of strikers gradually became fitted with guns, rifles and revolvers, 
all explanations and terms of reference were dropped. The 
moderate element among the strikers withdrew, but their places 
were filled over and over again by unqualified hooligans and 
ruffians anxious to make a stab at anybody and everybody repre- 
senting authority and law. The position, of course, ideally suited 
the extremist leaders, among whom avowed Communists played 
a large part They maintained the high temperature of the 
strikers by feeding them with fiery talk at an endless succession of 
meetings. One of them told a crowded hall of rebels that he knew 
the strike must end in a fight. 

"We are out to win this fight, and by God! we will, if we have 
to raze Johannesburg to the ground," he shouted, to the encourage- 
ment of joyous, unrestrained applause. 

'"Whoever heard of a fight without violence?" he demanded. 
c *We must organize the Commandos. The headgears of the 
mines are worth a fabulous sum, and there are lots of ways of 
injuring the capitalists. 

"A man suggested to me that General Smuts should be shot 
I told the man to go and kill him himself. Trust me and the 
Council of Action, and we will lead you to success." 

More applause. More cheers. More speeches. For two months 
this sort of inflammatory talk went on. The workers were thus 
led not only to expect a bloodly revolution, but also to desire one 
to insure it Commandos were drilled, strictly and regularly. 

[184] 



WHITE HEAT 

Guns were oiled, target practice was held, and men were taught 
how to unhorse the enemy. All Strike Committees were in- 
structed to take any steps they deemed necessary to prevent scabs 
from continuing work. 

These instructions were followed by memoranda from General 
Staff informing Strike Committees that, from that time on, the 
Committees were given full power to do "anything they desired 
to bring the strike to a successful issue." There were no qualifica- 
tions. It was a very wide authority. 

The attitude and objects of the rebels had, by this time, been 
clearly set down in a resolution framed by an opposition Member 
of Parliament, a man called Waterson, and adopted by a mass 
meeting of workers in Johannesburg. This resolution finally put 
the match to the petrol that had been spread along the Rand. It 
was: 

"That this mass meeting of citizens is of the opinion that the 
time has arrived when the domination of the Chamber of 
Mines and other financiers in South Africa should cease and, 
to that end, we and the Members of Parliament assemble in 
Pretoria tomorrow to proclaim a South African Republic, and 
immediately to form a provisional Government for this 
country." 

This resolution was rejected by Waterson's parliamentary col- 
leagues, but it remained vividly etched in the minds of that mass 
meeting of workers which had adopted it unanimously. 

The Commandos were ready. The men were eager to start. 

They were secure in the knowledge that help and reinforcements 
would be sent to them, if needed, from over the borders of the 
Transvaal. 

There was nothing to wait for. 

On March eighth the order was given to all Commandos along 
the Reef, and that night the revolution started at Benoni with 
firing from all directions. 

For five days this small mining village on the eastern extreme 
of the Rand was in the hands of the rebels, and the character of 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

the revolt was later described by the local magistrate as a quick and 
rapid approach to the French Revolution. 

"Had it lasted another forty-eight hours, it is practically certain 
that all Government officials in this town, and a number of 
others, would have suffered death at the hands of the revolution- 
aries,'* he declared. "Its aim was undoubtedly to overthrow the 
Government, and, on the part of a certain section, to establish 
Soviet rule." 

Benoni, Brakpan, Springs, Germiston, Johannesburg, Krugers- 
dorp from east to west along the ridge of the gold mines the 
revolution swept. The police were powerless to stem the wave of 
lawlessness and batde that threatened hourly to overwhelm the 
Rand. They were impotent and futile in their small numbers 
against the hysterically successful armies of strikers. The life of 
the gold mines, the history of South Africa, hung in the balance 
from one day to the next. 

Shops were looted and fires started along the stretch of Reef. 
Telephone wires were cut and miles of railway line blown up. 
Natives were attacked and killed because they had not joined the 
rising. Men and women in civilian clothes were shot at in the 
streets of Johannesburg, business came to a stop, and this empty, 
frightened town was left in the hands of the rebels. 

The suggested assassination of General Smuts was no mere 
platform pleasantry. It was a scheme that appealed mightily to 
the mob. Their chance came when they heard that General Smuts 
was traveling up by train to the battlefield of revolution. The 
rebels determined to prevent any interference from the Prime 
Minister in the most effective and final manner. They arranged 
to blast away the railway line between Krugersdorp and Lui- 
paardsvlei. The fuse was laid and lighted. The line was shattered 
into a thousand pieces, as the lengths of steel and the wooden 
sleepers were blown high into the air, leaving a deep jagged pit 
for the train to pass over. Then they waited for the Cape express, 
with General Smuts on board. They waited some time before 
they learned that the train had crossed the line a few minutes 
before it was dynamited. 

[186] 



WHITE HEAT 

After this the strikers made the gold mines the object of their 
destructive frenzy. A body of about seven hundred men con- 
centrated upon the Brakpan Mine, which was under the authority 
of Brodigan, the manager. Now, Brodigan had been warned that 
the revolutionaries were advancing upon his mine. He mustered 
all available assistance, and counted the support of ten special 
constables, and twenty-five mine officials with a few revolvers and 
some defective ammunition. Despite the limitations of his defenses, 
he decided to resist any attack, in order to prevent the wrecking 
of the mine. 

The Commando advanced in a solid block along the main road, 
and on reaching the property proceeded to surround the mine 
buildings and offices. Two of the leaders came forward under a 
white flag, and Brodigan went to meet them. The revolutionaries 
demanded possession of the mine in the name of a United White 
South Africa. This Brodigan refused to countenance, and he had 
scarcely returned to the buildings when fierce firing broke out 
from the rebel guns. 

For an hour the little band of men in the mine fought with 
courage, but the revolutionaries closed in on all sides until they 
had complete command of the position. Further resistance was 
impossible. There was no alternative but to surrender. Some of 
the officials threw down their revolvers. Most of them put up 
their hands. One man hoisted a white flag on his bayonet. 

The revolutionaries surged into the building. The mine had 
surrendered. It was in their hands, as they had planned. But 
they were mad with the lust for blood. They wanted no calm 
orthodox victory. They were crazy with hunger for flesh to tear. 
The mine officials stood motionless, their hands raised above their 
heads. The rebels rushed blindly toward them. There was blood 
in their minds. There was strength in their hands. There were 
bullets in their guns. They forgot everything but their hunger 
as they surged forward in a merciless sea of red frenzy. 

The handful of defenders stood trapped in their own mine, 
condemned to die in their hour of surrender. An army of men, 
made brutal with the mass desire to murder, dosed round them. 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

The conquered men were felled with clubs, gored with bayonets 
and battered into unconsciousness. One man knelt down to at- 
tend to the wounds o a fallen colleague. He was shot in the back 
with an expanding bullet, and he fell dead across the body of his 
friend. A shift-boss was taken outside and clubbed to death. A 
special constable had his skull smashed to pulp with a knobkerrie. 
Then a young clerk rushed to the telephone to call for help. He 
was surrounded by rebels. One of them demanded his watch and 
chain, and as he was in the act of handing them over, he was shot 
through the back and fell dead across the telephone. 

Within a few minutes only four of the original thirty-five de- 
fenders were on their feet. The rest were dead or wounded. The 
mine building was a charnel house a mortuary. 

The lives of the last four men were saved by the belated con- 
science of one of the rebels. He had been made sick at the sight 
of this massacre, and he was moved to reproach his comrades for 
committing cold-blooded murder. His words carried above the 
sounds of assaults and groans. They pierced the minds and the 
memories of the assailants. There was a flashing return to normal- 
ity. The rebels stopped short in their slaughter. 

They had killed eight men, wounded twenty-three, and taken 
possession of the mine. 

The story of Brakpan echoed encouragingly along the Reef. 
The entire Rand, including Johannesburg, was in the hands of 
the strikers. The victory was complete. 

Three days later, at the Brakpan Mine, one of the strikers on 
sentry duty at the main gates observed a band of horsemen coming 
along the road. At first he took them to be fellow rebels on a 
tour of inspection. Then as they drew nearer he distinguished a 
familiar formation. 

"My God!" he shouted, "my God! the troops!* 

The horsemen rode briskly. They carried the badge of the 
South African Mounted Rifles. 

Martial law had been declared. 

They were the advance riders of heavy Government forces, and 
were reinforced with bombing squadrons, artillery and all the 

[x88] 



WHITE HEAT 

machinery of war. The soldiers of the Government had been 
instructed to quash the rising. There were no qualifications. 
The troops closed in on the Reef with official strength and determi- 
nation. 

For a few hours the strikers fought their cause desperately. But 
their leaders had deserted them, the assistance which they had been 
promised from over the border never came, and the natives had 
quietly refused to come to their aid. Alone they could not hope 
to defeat the great Government army. 

They surrendered. 

When the curtain came down on the Rand Revolt one hundred 
and fifty-three people had been killed and five hundred and thirty- 
four people had been wounded. 

The epilogue was played in the courts of law, where two hun- 
dred and four revolutionaries stood trial for high treason. In a 
courtroom crowded with mothers and wives, the Judge-President 
of the Transvaal faced the rebels in the dock. He was pronounc- 
ing sentence on the Brakpan rioters. He found his task a wretched 
and unhappy one. There was only one course open to the court, 
he said. He hoped that this trial would serve the good purpose of 
instilling into the minds of men and women the fact that, no 
matter how just they might think their cause, no matter how just, 
indeed, it might be the court was not concerned with whether 
it was just or unjust if the people combined in a movement to 
enforce their cause at the expense of the lives of quite innocent 
men, they must realize that they did so at the risk of having their 
own lives declared forfeit by the law. 

The eight ringleaders were sentenced to death. 

There were ten other death sentences pronounced in that Trea- 
son Court 

Death had long fingers stretching toward the Rand in the 
summer of that year. It touched the throats of three rebels one 
fine morning in November, as they were led from the condemned 
cell toward the scaffold. The men who had fought the forces of 
law so confidently faced this last inevitable defeat with a song on 
their lips the song of The Red Flag. Its music eddied round 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

them as they marched forward; the melody swirled through the 
cells of the jail to be taken up in a long wail by the other prisoners. 
Then there was silence. 

The other fifteen men waited their turn. A queue for the 
scaffold. They did not want to die. From behind the prison walls 
they begged for life. 

They pleaded this new cause in a joint letter to the Governor- 
GeneraL 

"We are not murderers as we understood the word,'* they 
wrote, "nor did any of us wish to take life for our own ad- 
vantage or revenge. We did want to keep as much of the 
good things of life for our families as possible; we struck 
work and, as hunger pressed, fell readily into the Commando 
organisation prepared for us by others who were more far- 
seeing and who, when it came to the point, left us to take the 
risk and bear the blame. The men who incited us by speech 
did so with impunity. We now see that we were wrong and 
that, especially by taking arms or associating with others who 
did so, we foolishly allowed ourselves to drift into the position 
of having to either use those arms, or be branded as cowards 
by those who were inciting us to violence. 

"We are not men of experience or education, and really be- 
lieved that the country was behind us in attempting a revolt, 
and that it was a patriotic part we were asked to play. The 
discovery of the truth has been bitter. As to the murders of 
the police and officials on the Brakpan Mine after they were 
rendered defenceless, we wish to express our deep abhorrence 
at these crimes " 

All death sentences were later commuted, and two years after 
the opening scene of revolt, the last of the treason prisoners was 
released. 

Thus the curtain came down on the last act to shut out the 
players, and to finish the plot It was the end. 

There was no applause. 

None was asked for. 



CHAPTER 

THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

SINCE THAT FAR-OFF DAY WHEN HE HAP MADE THE OLD BOER FARMERS 

rock with kughter by buying the Widow Oosthuizen's farm, 
Joseph Benjamin Robinson had not been idle. He had been much 
engaged in building up for himself a large fortune and a great 
store of unpopularity. The good-humored affection in which his 
rival, Barney Barnato, was held never touched the shrewd, sus-^ 
picious man that was J. B. Robinson, and he had the unfortunate 
experience of knowing himself to be the most disliked man in the 
whole country of South Africa. 

Today in Johannesburg the stories told about J. B. Robinson are 
legion. Middle-aged business men will remember, a little wist- 
fully, the mischief of their school days when they robbed every 
orchard in the district save that of the hated and much-feared 
millionaire, who kept vicious dogs to guard his apples and pre- 
serve his peaches from naughty fingers. Old pensioners will tell 
of a maltreated miner who insisted, on his deathbed, that he should 
be buried on the road that led to Langlaagte, so that J. B. Robin- 
son should be forced to pass the grave, and remember. Gray- 
haired women will declare that the millionaire was afraid to sit 
beside an open window, and mining magnates who were once 
clerks and office boys will describe in detail the midnight expedi- 
tions, and the spying, suspicious eyes of the mqn f 

These stories, which fall from a hundred lips, are probably 
fantastic legends and exaggerated anecdotes. They are valuable 
only because they serve to show how universal was the hatred in 
which this man was held. It cannot be mere tradition fastened 
upon by men who can comfortably revile the memory of a success- 
ful financier, the figure of a dead millionaire, for Robinson has 
been dead only six years, and this is barely time for the misty 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

birth of tradition. The stories of J. B. Robinson are told, not as 
young recollections of grandfatherly gossip; they are spread in 
sober description by men who worked through the years with 
Robinson and who have reached positions of importance where 
they have no need for envy. Possibly the recollections are dis- 
torted by constant use and repetition, but there must have been an 
image, and it can hardly have been beautiful. From the Cape to 
the borders of Rhodesia the name of J. B. Robinson stands in 
an unenviable position of unpopularity, and as the traveler treks 
up from Table Bay to the golden reef of the Witwatersrand, the 
ugly background of the millionaire will change from apple 
orchards and perky schoolchildren to a drop-cloth of winding, 
crooked paths that led from the mine of Langlaagte when Robin- 
son was its master. 

On that summer morning in the year 1886 when the Widow 
Oosthuizen was baking mealie cakes in her kitchen, when Walker 
had taken the dusty track to Potchefstroom to raise an option of 
thirty pounds on Langlaagte, and when the coach with its Kim- 
berley magnates had rumbled on its way to the new goldfields at 
Pretoria with one seat empty, J. B. Robinson, the missing pas- 
senger, had already acquired a reputation for shrewdness and 
ruthless strength. The rough coarse camp of Kimberley on the 
diamond diggings had soon learned that it was a mistake to be 
influenced by the calm innocent expression of the man who had 
a face like an Evangelical minister without his book, or a Shirley 
Temple without her curls. 

Barney Barnato may have brought a few tricks to the diggings 
from the back streets of Aldgate: J. B. Robinson, when he arrived, 
knew them all. He had been born in the Cape Province, and had 
spent his early manhood fighting rebellious native tribes and as- 
serting his authority. Although he always claimed that his parents 
had come to South Africa from England with the 1820 settlers, 
Robinson, throughout his long life, closely resembled the char- 
acter of the early backveldt Dutchman. He was brave, and strong, 
and was not afraid of other men. He was brutal in his dealings 
with the black man, whom he regarded as an animal to be de- 

[1923 



TOE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

stroycd when its period of usefulness to him was oven But he 
was not altogether a Boer. He was not simple. When, as a young 
man, he engaged in the art of wool-farming in the Orange Free 
State, he had ample opportunity of exercising his cunning and 
natural f oxiness. The wide bare country of the veldt, dotted with 
occasional traders and little settlements of white men, was an 
excellent playground on which to practise his points, and the busi- 
ness of wool-farming, itself, with all its uncertainties and per- 
versities, was an excellent stone on which to sharpen his wits. He 
decided very early in life, probably as a result of his own dealings, 
to trust no one but himself. 

When the diamond beds were discovered, Robinson threw up 
wool-farming and left at once for Kimberley, where he moved 
silently in and out of the claims and made men wonder, when it 
was too late. Sometimes they watched him send natives out with 
instructions to find and bring him the pieces of white glass which 
meant diamonds to him, and when the black men returned with 
a haul of pebbles, worth probably one thousand pounds, Robin- 
son would reward them with some beads or a plug of tobacco, or 
a kick in the buttocks for not bringing more. 

Women liked him, and this was strange, for he was neither 
tender nor generous. It must have been his baby-face. 

It must have been his baby-face that won the sympathy of the 
Widow Oosthuizen the day he persuaded her to part with her 
farm. The widow was a lucky woman, for she, at least, got paid 
the purchase price of Langlaagte, even though it was only six 
thousand pounds for property which was later capitalized at 
one million, five hundred nineteen thousand, eight hundred and 
thirty-three pounds. 

By the time he had bought the farm that belonged to Old Gert 
du Plessis and Japie de Villiers, Robinson had shed all his Kim- 
berley trappings. Then he settled into the business of mining on 
Langlaagte. 

To J. B. Robinson goes the honor, if it is an honor and not luck, 
of being the first industrialist on the WitwatersrancL But, at 
least, he must be credited with the discovery and proof that the 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

Witwatersrand gold reef was not merely a flash in the pan, as 
Barberton had been, but was a deep and positive formation. The 
proving of this fact required money, and the courage to spend it, 
and J. B. Robinson had both. 

At first the Reef was thought to be a surface deposit, of no 
depth, and consequently of no lasting value. But Robinson was 
not content with other men's theories, for he had private and 
contrary beliefs of his own. When he became master of Langlaagte 
he set out to prove these beliefs by sinking a shaft, some distance 
away from the golden trail of the Reef, The shaft struck the 
Reef at a depth of twenty-five feet. It suggested to Robinson the 
new theory that the auriferous rock was neither a surface deposit 
nor a vertical formation, but that the Reef dipped into the earth 
at an angle of about forty degrees. Shaft-sinking is not child's 
play. The operation itself requires a highly skilled knowledge, 
and the expenditure it entails necessitates a lusty adult bank- 
balance. Today on the Witwatersrand the sinking of shafts to 
depth on a new property is estimated to cost anything from one 
million pounds to two million pounds. 

When, therefore, Robinson decided to sink a second shaft at 
the cost of many thousands of pounds just as an experiment, he 
was showing a courage not given to many rich men. Robinson 
wanted to discover if the Reef persisted to any depth, and so, while 
other men were scratching about on the surface of the Rand and 
were making quick fortunes from the rich rock that lay on the 
ground, he was spending a fortune in burrowing experimentally 
into the earth. He marked a spot about a hundred feet away from 
the outcrop. A shaft was sunk, and the Reef was struck again at 
a depth of three hundred and sixty feet 

This proved two things to Robinson: it showed that the Reef 
dipped at an angle, and that it continued deep into earth. His 
money had been well spent. He was sure of the Rand, and of 
himself, now. The next thing to do, on the strength of these dis- 
coveries, was to buy up as much land as possible along the line of 
the Reef, and Robinson began to look about for more land to pur- 
chase. By this time^ however, the country was alive with 

[194] 



THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

prospectors, and the Main Reef had already been pegged out by 
others to the apparent limit of its extent. Robinson was forced 
to look far afield for his land, and he turned his attention to the 
western extreme of the Rand. He examined the ground 
thoroughly and systematically. He spent many weeks investigat- 
ing the character of the country at this point, and, when he had 
made himself reasonably certain of his own judgment, when he 
had convinced himself that the sheet of gold-bearing rock ex- 
tended in this direction, he plunged all his resources into the 
West Rand. 

This was a bold step, for the development of untouched prop- 
erty on the Witwatersrand was, and still is, a colossal gamble. 
Nearly as much money has been lost in South Africa in chasing a 
rich golden clue to the Reef as was ever made in finding it. 
The evidence, so carefully collected from the ground, is impishly 
deceiving. Samples of rock may be taken on surface and at depth; 
bore-holes may be sunk in half a dozen different places on the 
one property and each result may show a rich return of gold, but 
under the crust of the ground the earth lives in a dozen different 
moods. 

The sheet of speckled rock charged with finely divided gold 
may yield graciously to the bore-hole, giving ten, twenty, thirty 
pennyweights of yellow metal to the ton. Just a few feet beyond 
the limit of the bore-hole the Reef may peter out into a barren 
worthless sea of empty granite. On the other hand, samples and 
experiments may force the reluctant owner to conclude that his 
property is valueless, for not a grain of gold shows in the crushing 
pan or in the laboratory. Perhaps he has sunk three bore-holes, 
only to find that the earth yields up nothing to him. Twenty 
yards away the Reef may lie snug and fat, escaping the prying 
eyes and interfering instruments of the mining man. It is the 
same story now as it was then. It is the story of Daggafontein, 
of Marievale, of Government Areas. 

About thirty years ago a company was formed to exploit what 
was reported to be a very promising property at Daggafontein. 
Reports from geologists and engineers indicated that there should 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

be large quantities of payable gold on this territory. Work was 
started. A shaft was sunk, and drives and tunnels were made in 
various directions, but the gold-bearing conglomerate could not 
be found. The company continued to explore, to excavate, to 
tunnel, until they found they had spent one million pounds in 
chasing the gray speckled phantom of the Main Reef. Shares 
that were originally issued at a pound fluctuated between eight 
and ten shillings. The development of the mine continued. 
There was nothing to be found. At last the directors mournfully 
realized that they had spent one million, two hundred and fifty 
thousand pounds to make nothing more than a large hole in the 
ground, and despite the contentions of their engineers that some- 
where on Daggafontein there was gold, the company was wound 
up. Shareholders received two shillings for their original pound 
shares. A caretaker was employed to keep the workings dry and 
the machinery in order, and the Daggafontein Mine was then 
abandoned. 

In 1928 the Anglo-American Company was busily engaged in 
exploiting property in the prosperous district of Springs. They 
had learned enough from this experience to feel confident about 
the prospects of the adjoining Daggafontein land. They took over 
the old company and began to work it. In a far corner of the 
huge farm they sunk a bore-hole and struck gold. A little while 
ago the original one-pound Daggafontein shares were considered 
a good proposition at nine pounds ten shillings per share. 

And Solly Joel buried more than two million, five hundred 
thousand pounds in the earth before he struck the Reef at Govern- 
ment Areas. Now his company signs checks for this amount 
yearly as the Government's share of the profits, from this one 
mine alone. 

It is just the luck of the game. Men without money are un- 
lucky, though, for half a gamble is more unsatisfactory, more 
depressing and more expensive than no gamble at all. Men with 
more optimism than money are likely to lose both in the gamble 
of gold-mining. But a man's faith is difficult to destroy; his 
capital disappears more easily. Of the number of companies pro- 



THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

moted as recently as 1933-34, no less than one hundred twenty- 
two have already ceased to exist, for "capital" on the Witwaters- 
rand does not mean a few hundreds of thousands. Real capital 
for developing gold-mining companies must be millions of pounds 
before any successful result may be achieved. 

When he turned toward the West Rand, J. B. Robinson had 
the necessary money, and the required courage to gamble with 
it He formed the Robinson syndicate to purchase nine farms 
covering an area of forty thousand acres, and including a ten- 
mile line along the lie of the Reef. This property became the 
Randfontein Estates, with a capital of two million pounds, and 
with its formation Robinson became the largest shareholder in 
Langlaagte, the Block B property and Randfontein Estates. Apart 
from these interests, he was now one of the largest landowners in 
the whole country, holding immense blocks of agricultural and 
mineralized farms in different parts of the Transvaal. In 1893 
J. B. Robinson was considered the wealthiest man in South Africa. 

Such large vested interests needed careful guarding, and Robin- 
son had arranged with himself to protect them, not obviously, but 
with the power of secret diplomacy. He decided to use Kruger 
as a safeguard, and he set out to be amiable and financially useful 
to the President 

It cannot be imagined that the two men were ever friends. The 
one was a simple sincere Dutchman, jealous of his country; the 
other a wily Dutch-speaking Englishman jealous of his wealth; 
but, as some sage has remarked, every man has his price. Kruger's 
price was high, but Robinson could meet it. He lent the South 
African Republic one hundred thousand pounds. This was neither 
kindness nor philanthropy; it was the age-old game of self- 
protection. Like office clerks who flatter the general manager, 
like reporters who charm the news editor, like typists who dine 
with the director, Robinson believed in cc being nice" when it paid 
him. He was afraid of Kruger's hatred of the gold-mining in- 
dustry. He was nervous of the presidential power to make the 
life of a millionaire uncomfortable on the Rand, and as he was 
not over-fond of his fellow countrymen in Johannesburg, he did 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

not find it morally difficult to look after himself and leave his 
brothers floundering. His constant solicitude for Kruger misled 
everybody except Kruger. People began to think Robinson 
wanted to sit on the presidential chair of the Republic, and the 
more sensitive among them regarded such a possibility as far 
more unsatisfactory than the direct disagreeableness and antipathy 
of the Boer leader. 

Cecil Rhodes was not speaking frivolously when, in reply to an 
inquisition on the Jameson Raid, at a Parliamentary Committee 
in London, he said: 

ie You might be sure, sir, that I was not going to risk my posi- 
tion to change President Kruger for President J. B. Robinson." 

But Robinson denied presidential aspirations, explaining 
blandly that he thought he could do better for himself outside 
the walls of Government than from within, 

"I may conceivably at some future time enter the Volksraad," 
he said, "with the idea of protecting my large vested interests." 

When the Jameson Raid occurred, Robinson saw in this move- 
ment a frightful menace to his financial well-being, and when, 
after the miserable failure of the Raiders, the angry Dutchmen 
began to talk of blowing up the mines. Robinson was so terrified 
that he spent two thousand pounds in cabling advice, instructions, 
suggestions and prayers. He was in England at the time, living in 
his magnificent Park Lane home and collecting Old Masters, a 
sport in which, with the help of Mr. Christie and his hammer, he 
saw good business. 

Robinson went to see Chamberlain at Downing Street about the 
Jameson Raid. He offered the English Premier advice as to the 
type of cable he should send Kruger, and then he telegraphed to 
the President urging him to come to England. He caught the 
next boat back to South Africa, and went straight to Pretoria to 
see Kruger. The old Boer explained that his burghers were ex- 
cited and angry, and that he was having the greatest difficulty 
in preventing them from blowing up the mines. It was true, 
then. They wanted to destroy the mines. They wanted to ruin 
Langlaagte, Block B, and Randfontein Estates. They must be 

[198] 




The speckled gold reef of the Witwatersrand may be clearly seen behind 
the concrete supports in this large slope. 




The slanting angle of the reef is shown in this picture taken in a 
slope at Crown Mines. 



THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

stopped at all costs. Robinson persuaded Kruger to give him 
a list of the names of the most bitter and aggressive of the 
Boers. The rest was simple. Robinson himself explained its sim- 
plicity. 

"Some of the men said their property had depreciated," he said, 
"and that they had sustained losses in consequence of the Raid, 
I offered to lend them money at lower rates than the banks were 
charging, and, after a great deal of trouble, many of them ac- 
cepted my offer, and I got them into a better frame of mind." 

At the same time, he stood security for a one-year loan of six 
hundred thousand pounds to the Government, and instructed an 
institution known as the Robinson Bank to discount a promissory 
note from the Government at six per cent per annum, when the 
ordinary banks were charging nine per cent* He afterward cal- 
culated that his endeavors, as he put it, "to effect reconciliation by 
easing the economic situation'* cost him two hundred thousand 
pounds but it must have been worth it to him. 

After this, in the year 1908, on the recommendation of Louis 
Botha, J. B. Robinson was given a baronetcy, and his old Kimberley 
colleagues were now obliged to address him as "Sir Joseph." His 
second initial, however, was freely and most fluendy translated. 

It was in the year 1916 that Robinson met Solly Joel to negotiate 
the sale of Randfontein Estates. Each man was suspicious of the 
other's cunning. Both millionaires went warily about the busi- 
ness of buying and selling. Both men were confident of their 
own specialized superiority in making a deal. Robinson by this 
time had acquired a peculiar type of deafness which seemed to 
vary in intensity as the discussions grew more delicate. There 
were times when he appeared far more deaf than usual. There 
were times when Joel could have sworn he was not deaf at all. 
The negotiations consisted of the shouting of Joel and the listening 
of Robinson, but at last the deal was made, and Randfontein 
Estates became the property of Johannesburg Consolidated In- 
vestment Company. The sum paid by Joel for this great acreage 
of land has never been publicly revealed, but it may safely be 
estimated at four million, five hundred thousand pounds* Both 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

men were satisfied. Each thought he had made a good bargain. 
One of them was right. 

When Solly Joel sent his engineers to report upon the condition 
and prospects of his new purchase he found that it was Baby-face 
Robinson who had made the best deal. Randfontein Estates was 
as rotten inside as a wormy apple. The mine was in an advanced 
state of disrepair. The machinery was rusty and out of order. 
The workings were undeveloped and useless. The mine was as 
shabby and as demoralizing inside as a slum tenement house. It 
was many years before Randfontein Estates paid a dividend, and 
it was for this priceless gem of the Rand that Solly Joel had paid 
over four million pounds. He said very little. There was nothing 
he could say yet He proceeded to put Randfontein Estates in 
some sort of order, and it was during the reorganization of the 
mine that the extraordinary story of J. B. Robinson's Randfontein 
deals was brought out from its murky hiding-place into the light 
of day. 

A diligent auditor, in the course of investigating a certain un- 
vouched payment, stumbled upon one of the strangest histories 
of business cunning, sharp practice and aggressive domination 
that has ever been told. 

Solly Joel, smarting under his defeat, did not hesitate to take 
action, and in the year 1921, one of the most sensational causes 
cUbre$ ever to come before the South African Courts was heard 
when the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company 
claimed four hundred sixty-two thousand pounds from Sir Joseph 
Benjamin Robinson. The action became known as the "Secret 
Profits" case. It grew from a wrestle in the lower courts between 
two business men into a gargantuan battle between two million- 
aires fought out in the Courts of Appeal. The courts proved once 
again that one of them was right. 

To appreciate the story of the Secret Profits case it is first 
necessary to appreciate the relationship between Sir J. B. Robinson 
when he was chairman of Randfontein Estates, and his directors. 

About the year 1893 Robinson began to institute in all the 
companies of the Robinson group what may be called the depart- 

[200] 



THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

mental directorate system. Randfontein Estates, as the parent 
company, controlled the subsidiaries: its directors were their 
directors, and a board was gradually formed, the members of 
which were officials bound to devote the whole of their time to 
the service of the companies. At their head was John Langerman, 
afterward Sir John Langerman, and he acted as vice-chairman 
when Robinson, his employer, was present, and as chairman in 
his absence. Langerman was engaged to manage Robinson's af- 
fairs in the Transvaal, and for this he was paid a salary of five 
thousand pounds a year with a ten per cent commission on any 
new business he introduced. The other directors under this sys- 
tem were appointed either by Robinson or by Langerman with 
Robinson's approval, and these appointments were approved by 
the Board. "There was never any difficulty. Robinson saw to 
that. Although he was not a controlling shareholder, he held an 
adequate number of proxies. 

Every director had his departmental duty assigned to him; he 
was either appointed a director and an official at the same time, 
or he was made a director because he was an official. Not only 
did Robinson have complete control over the appointment and 
pay of his directors, but he also qualified them. For many years 
he did this with his own shares, and as, under the Articles, a direc- 
tor's seat became vacant the moment he ceased to hold his qualifi- 
cation shares, Robinson could at any moment remove any or all 
of them. They were entirely at his mercy. 

At this time Robinson lived, for the most part, in London, 
although he visited South Africa frequently. His Park Lane 
house was a sort of private post office, for when he was in England 
he maintained a constant and regular correspondence by letter 
and cable with his henchman, Langerman. Thus the operations 
of his company were reported to him in the fullest detail, and 
Robinson was always fully alive to every move made at Rand- 
fontein. Langerman was a most excellent foil. He was suitably 
subservient to his boss, and forbiddingly arrogant with the flock 
of directors. He was careful at meetings not to lay before the 
Board the correspondence between Robinson and himself, for this 

[20!] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

would have revealed him in his proper light of servant; instead he 
framed high-sounding minutes and resolutions in accordance 
with his instructions, and these were laid, almost autocratically, 
before the Board. 

Occasionally, some director in a defiant mood would dare to 
voice his opinion on matters outside his own particular depart- 
ment 

There was, for example, the director called Pierce, who once 
objected to certain transactions. The next day he was told by 
Langerman that Sir Joseph wished him to resign his seat and pro- 
ceed to London. That was the end of Pierce. Four years later 
another director called Butt was informed by Langerman that 
Sir Joseph wished to reduce the number of directors, and that he 
was regarded as superfluous. He obediently resigned. Scholtz, a 
director created by Robinson himself, was informed by letter that 
he was to take no part in the direct working of the Boards to which 
Robinson had appointed him. And there were others. 

The directors of Randf ontein Estates were paid officials forced 
usually into a state of disinterest regarding matters of policy and 
finance. They had, as a rule, to be content to leave all such busi- 
ness to J. B. Robinson. The only direction in which they were at 
all able to assert their own views freely was in the various de- 
partments which they had been appointed to supervise, and this 
was comparatively unimportant 

Some idea as to Robinson's relations with Langerman and his 
directors may be gained from the correspondence which passed 
between them. Take, for example, this letter from Robinson to 
his Vice-Chairman: 

"Powers of Attorney to London Agents. The powers you 
sent appointing Messrs. Butt and Marcus are wrong; they are 
still on the lines drawn up when Marcus had control of the 
London Agency. What I require is a power from the trustees 
of the Companies empowering me as Chairman to appoint 
the agents in London. I enclose a draft giving you the idea 
as to what document I require. I shall then appoint under 
that power the London agents, and I shall have the power 

[202] 



THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

at the same time to cancel such appointments when I 
fit. The agents now appointed for the companies act under 
a letter from me in which I inform them that their appoint- 
ment dates as long as it suits me. You will, therefore, have 
a resolution passed by the various boards authorising the 
trustees to sign the power, and you will forward it on to me 
as soon as possible." 

Langerman was told that he would do all this, and he did. 
He himself wrote a very interesting letter once to Robinson, in 
which he showed an unusual and dangerous spirit of individuality: 

"I have," he wrote, "received your cable that we should not 
shut down the mill, as it will have a bad effect on the Rand- 
f ontein Companies, and if anything is wrong with the Forges, 
it will create a panic in the Randf ontein shares. I must, how- 
ever, draw your attention to the fact that to follow out your 
policy would be subordinating the true interests and future 
of the Company to the interests of the dealers in the shares." 

And further on: 

"I was rather surprised to receive a cable from you asking 
me how I intended paying the dividend of the Forges. This 
is a matter for you to arrange, seeing that you have been 
fully aware of the position of the company as regards the cash 
and profits; further that the latter did not reflect the true 
position, as the whole of the development had been charged 
to capital account instead of to revenue account. This was 
done on your instructions, and the dividend was also de- 
clared on your instructions, because if none were paid it 
would have a bad effect," 

The directors of the Robinson group of companies said nothing. 
No doubt they did not even know of such dealings. Meetings 
were held. Resolutions were passed. The years sauntered by, 
and the Robinson group continued quietly to flourish. 

It was in the year 1906 that Sir Joseph Benjamin Robinson once 

[203] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

again thought of buying more land. The Robinson group, of 
which Randf ontein Estates was the parent company, already held 
large mineral interests in the three farms, Randfontein, Uitval- 
f ontein and Waterval. The Reef had been traced throughout the 
farms, but it was on Waterval that Robinson concentrated his at- 
tention. He wanted to buy the property outright, but Waterval 
was held by a farmer named Du Toit, and the two men, buyer 
and seller, could not come to terms, so Robinson had to be content 
with a mineral lease. However, old Du Toit died, and in 1906 
Robinson was able to buy from the heirs a half-share in the farm. 
The price he paid was sixty thousand pounds. He still wanted 
to buy the whole farm, but the young Du Toits refused to sell, 
promising instead to let him know if, and when, they decided to 
sell the other half. 

Robinson said not a word to his directors about his purchase. 
But he floated a company with the specified object of acquiring 
and holding the farm Waterval. The life of this subsidiary com- 
pany, which was known as the Waterval Trust Company, was 
limited to two years. Langerman was created chairman, and it 
was he who, working secretly on behalf of Robinson, reported 
to a meeting of directors that he had secured the option to pur- 
chase an undivided share of Waterval as well as a verbal under- 
standing from the owner to sell the remaining half. 

The price, Langerman reported, asked by the owner for the 
first half and for the option on the second half was two hundred 
and seventy-five thousand pounds. In view of the intrinsic value 
of the property, and the immense importance which Randfontein 
Estates attached to its acquisition and control, he, Langerman, 
recommended its purchase by the Trust. What Langerman did 
not sec fit to mention was that Robinson was the vendor, and that 
he had paid only sixty thousand pounds for this very same 
property. 

Such information was carefully and discreetly withheld. 

The directors adopted the recommendation put to them by 
Langerman. 

Shortly afterward a draft for two hundred and seventy-five 

[204] 



THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

thousand pounds was placed to the credit of J. B. Robinson. Thus 
within a month of purchasing the land for the sum of sixty thou- 
sand pounds, the Chairman of the Randfontein Estates had sold 
his own company the same property for two hundred and seventy- 
five thousand pounds, thereby netting for himself a secret profit 
of two hundred and fifteen thousand pounds. After he had paid 
out five thousand pounds for expenses and "commissions/ 7 Robin- 
son was left with two hundred and ten thousand pounds clear 
profit. 

The Waterval Trust Company, having fulfilled its purpose, 
was now ordered by Robinson to be put out of existence. A meet- 
ing of the shareholders was called, over which Langerman pre- 
sided, and at which, according to the evidence called in the case, 
he and the Secretary were the only persons present. After the 
Chairman had explained the position, apparently to the Secre- 
tary, a formal resolution was adopted placing the company in 
liquidation and appointing Langerman as liquidator. So closed 
the career of this remarkable company, a company which had 
proved of the utmost use and the greatest value to at least one 
man. 

Commenting upon the Waterval Trust Company at the Ap- 
peal Court, the Chief Justice, Sir James Rose-Innes said: 

'The scheme devised did not conceal, and could not have 
concealed from any one interested the fact that one-half of 
the freehold had been acquired by the Robinson Group; but 
it did conceal the fact that it had been acquired from Sir J. B. 
Robinson, and it gave no inkling of the profit he had made. 
To me it is clear that the Trust was created to hide his part in 
the Waterval deal, and the resulting profit No doubt the 
freehold was most valuable, and I assume that its acquisition, 
even at the price which Sir J. B. Robinson fixed, was beneficial 
to the Randfontein Estates. But in the process of benefiting 
the company he was making two hundred and ten thousand 
pounds for himself, and that was a fact which it was necessary 
to conceal. Upon the evidence before us that seems the 
true inwardness of the arrangement." 

[205] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

The Waterval deal did not, by any means, mark the end of 
Robinson's game of making secret profits. There was more to 
come. 

About this time an extensive scheme was being undertaken for 
consolidating the Robinson subsidiaries in order to effect cheaper 
and more efficient working. In March, 1907, a new company, 
called the Randfontein Central, was formed, which amalgamated 
three of the centrally situated subsidiaries, and later absorbed the 
Waterval companies. 

In connection with this amalgamation four blocks of claims, 
all of which bordered on the properties in question, were thrown 
into the scheme. These four lots of claims had been quietly pur- 
chased before the amalgamation by J. B. Robinson. They cost 
him about forty-five thousand pounds, and he arranged that his 
company should buy them from him for more than six times that 
amount. He instructed Langerman accordingly, and in due 
course he received secretly for the claims 164,000 shares in Rand- 
fontein Central, which shares were valued for the purposes of 
transfer duty at two hundred and ninety-seven thousand two 
hundred and fifty pounds. 

It was quite simple. 

Robinson had made another secret profit of two hundred and 
fifty-two thousand two hundred and fifty pounds. 

An amalgamation of this kind, however, required the assent 
of the shareholders. A special meeting was called, but as there 
was no quorum, it was adjourned for a week. At this meeting 
a quorum was found. It consisted of Langerman and his four 
Directors, the Record Clerk, the Secretary, and, by proxy, Sir 
J. B. Robinson. It was resolved by this ready-made meeting to 
adopt the provisional amalgamation agreement, which provided, 
among other things, that the four lots of claims be purchased 
for the company. No one mentioned, however, that die claims 
had been purchased from the Chairman. This purchase from 
the Chairman of assets priced at more than a quarter of a million 
pounds was not only concealed from the shareholders at the time, 
but it was not even mentioned in the Annual Report. 

Langerman was well rewarded for the work he had done, and 

[206] 



THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

he received one or two meaty pickings out of his negotiations on 
behalf of Robinson. Over the Waterval deal he benefited by 
twenty-one thousand three hundred and sixty pounds, and over 
the business of amalgamation he stood credited with ten thou- 
sand Central shares. 

After this, all went exceedingly well with the Randfontein 
Company. The policy of consolidation was steadily pursued, 
until Randfontein had absorbed all the subsidiaries and had con- 
centrated in its own hands the mining operations which it had 
been formed to undertake. It became a large gold-producer, and 
a prosperous concern. 

And then in 1916 Sir J. B. Robinson disposed of practically all 
his interests in the Randfontein Estates Gold-Mining Company 
and the Randfontein Central Company to Solly Joel or, more 
properly, to the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company. 
A rearrangement of directors followed. Auditors, accountants, 
clerks and secretaries examined the papers of the firm methodi- 
cally and scrupulously. Slowly, piece by piece, the true story of 
the Randfontein deals was fitted together, and the attention of 
the new Board was directed to certain extraordinary transactions. 

Solly Joel instituted legal proceedings at once against Robinson, 
claiming from him the profits he had made fifteen years earlier 
on the sale both of Waterval and of the four blocks of claims. 
A formidable array of learned counsel was briefed by both sides. 

The stuffy courtroom was stacked high with mountains of 
documents, the back of the court was crammed with interested 
people and the benches were wedged tight with all the leading 
men of the mining industry. For twenty-one days the orthodox, 
conventional voice of the court droned on through technicalities, 
statistics, methods of procedure and conventions. 

Solly Joel, bearded and determined, remembered the bad deal 
he had made over Randfontein, and was angry. J. B. Robinson, 
deaf always to the questions put by counsel for the plaintiff, was 
miraculously restored to perfect hearing when cross-examined by 
counsel for the defense. The Judges looked grave and severe. 
There was nearly half a million pounds at stake. The principles 

[207] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

involved were serious. The courtroom grew stuffier and stuffier. 
The technicalities grew more and more abstruse. The judges 
looked as though they were hearing evidence in a murder case. 
At the end of twenty-one days they spoke. They delivered verdict. 

The Trial Court, by a majority, gave judgment for Solly Joel 
on the Waterval transaction, and granted absolution from the 
instance on the claims transaction. 

Robinson at once appealed against the Waterval findings. Joel 
immediately cross-appealed against the claims finding. The 
battle of the giants had begun in earnest. It was fought with the 
forces of determination, hatred, vindictiveness and money. 

The Secret Profits case was taken to the Appeal Court, and on 
the principle that where one man stands to another in a position 
of confidence involving a duty to protect the interests of that other, 
he is not allowed to make a secret profit at the other's expense, or 
place himself in a position where his interests conflict with his 
duty, the Judges of Appeal found in favor of Solly Joel, the new 
master of Randfontein, on both claims. 

Thus it was that fifteen years after, Sir Joseph Benjamin Robin- 
son was ordered by courts of the land to pay up four hundred and 
sixty-two thousand pounds the secret profits he had made at 
the expense of his own company. 

Secret profits. 

Not quite secret enough. 

Robinson was not a good loser. He did not take the finding 
quietly. He badly wanted to vanquish Joel, even if it had now 
to be on a minor scale, so he spent the next four years of his dwin- 
dling life appealing to the courts on one score or another. The 
first Appeal Court had ordered him to render an account of all 
the secret profits made by him, and to pay this amount with 
interest A lower court found that the amount of profit should 
be based upon the value of the shares when Robinson received 
them, and not at the price at which he subsequently sold them. 
Robinson appealed against the finding. 

The appeal was dismissed. 

The following year in a lower court the money value of the 

[208] 



THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

Randfontein Central shares in 1909 was determined at forty-seven 
shillings and sixpence per share, and Robinson was ordered to 
pay on this basis. 

He appealed. 

The appeal was dismissed with costs. 

There was nothing more he could do. He had spent four years 
fighting the law, pitting his strength against the justice of the 
country. It had cost him nearly three-quarters of a million 
pounds, and, for once, there could be no returns, no profits, on 
this expenditure. He could not even sack the judges or kick 
them out of their jobs. There was just nothing for him to do but 
pay up. It was a very bitter Robinson who realized that this was 
defeat and there could be no retribution. 

Early in 1922, while Robinson was still appealing against the 
many verdicts given against him, it was announced that he had 
been created a peer. This announcement created a furor, and a 
slashing storm of protest, indignation and abuse broke over the 
head of the South African millionaire. In his own country Robin- 
son was always hated for his meanness, his ruthlessness and his 
contemptible principles. But a local loathing of this sort is always 
attributed to jealousy, and until Robinson's life-story was spread 
out in all its tawdry colors before the judges of the land, his 
countrymen had to be content to voice their dislike without 
being able to give more justification than a deeply bred suspicion 
and a mass of unproved incidents. Robinson, like a good many 
other men of wealth and power, had taken infinite care to lock 
away from the public gaze the intricate mechanism of his dealings, 
leaving no more for his critics to stare at than a mere shadow 
which flickered tantalizingly and uncertainly. 

South Africa could point with confident assertion to the fact 
that the richest man in the whole country was the stingiest and 
most miserly. It could be shown that of all his millions Robinson 
had spent no more than he was forced to in his own country, and 
that his charitable offerings throughout his long life amounted 
to no more t-han a handful of hundreds. 

[2093 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

But until the Secret Profits case was brought to the courts, the 
business habits of the man had been mere talk. Now it was 
proved. It was fact This, then, was the man they proposed to 
make a peer. South Africa was furious. And in England, where 
the already elected peers of the realm sat in soft gentility, the re- 
ports of the Secret Profits case whistled through the House of 
Parliament in a piercing shriek of unorthodoxy. 

Robinson himself, by this time, was more accustomed to defeat. 
He had learned how to meet it half-way. Like a faithless dis- 
covered wife who sues her husband for divorce, Robinson covered 
himself in a false cloak of martyred resignation. He wrote to 
Lloyd George declining the honor of a peerage. He wrote at 
once, for had he waited another day he would have suffered the 
further disgrace of a flat refusal. 

"I have not, as you know, sought the suggested honour," he 
wrote, "It is now some sixty years since I commenced as a 
pioneer the task of building up the industries of South Africa. 
I am now an old man to whom honours and dignities are no 
longer a matter of much concern, and I should be sorry if any 
honour conferred upon me were the occasion for such ill- 
feeling as was manifested in the House of Lords yesterday, 
and whilst deeply appreciating the honour that has been 
suggested, I would wish, if I may, without discourtesy to 
yourself, and without impropriety to His Majesty, to beg per- 
mission to decline the proposal." 

Robinson was now, as he had said, an old man. His life was 
rapidly leaving his old worn-out body. For seventy years this 
man had labored and toiled under the cloudless South African sky. 
His object had been singlefold. He had worked and plotted to 
build up a vast fortune and to safeguard himself. Self- 
preservation was the keynote to the march of his life. He had 
succeeded in achieving it But even to his very last day he was 
afraid of suffering defeat in this one ambition. He had many 
enemies, and he knew this well enough. In his creaking, rusty 

[210] 



THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

old age he lived in perpetual dread that they, at last, would con- 
quer him. 

In October, 1929, at the age of eighty-nine years, Joseph Ben- 
jamin Robinson died. 

The Press of South Africa gave him the space in their sheets 
warranted by his millions, but they abandoned the glowing, toler- 
ant form of the usual hypocritical obituary notice, and confined 
themselves instead to a setting down of facts purposely molded to 
exclude any sign of appreciation or sympathy. This far they went. 
But they followed their professional honesty no further. The 
man was dead. It was the end. No useful purpose could be 
served by raking over the ugly ashes of the finished millionaire. 
They waited merely to publish his will before they wrote Robin- 
son off their books. 

It was estimated by shrewd judges of finance that Robinson was 
worth ten million or twelve million pounds when he died, but 
when his assets were proved it was found that he had left no more 
than two million five hundred and sixty-two thousand, four hun- 
dred and eighty-five pounds. The people of the country would 
not, and could not believe this. Robinson had always been known 
as the wealthiest man in South Africa, and in a land of millionaires 
two and a half million pounds scarcely qualifies a man for the 
ranks of the rich upper ten. 

The wily old devil must have cheated up to the last moment, 
they declared. But where was the money he had withheld? 
The morning paper of Johannesburg, the Ran d Daily Mail, sup- 
plied an answer for them. 

"The Rand Daily Mail is informed on what must be very 
good authority indeed that a sum of 4,000,000 was 
lent by the late Sir Joseph Robinson, Bart., to the Italian 
Government. If this is the case, the mystery of the missing 
Robinson millions is explained in part, at any rate. Other 
millions may still have to be accounted for. 

"For many years past rumour has been busy with regard to 
the extent of die fortune of one who was regarded, rightly or 
wrongly, as one of the wealthiest men who have ever been 

[211] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

connected with South Africa. Few men would have esti- 
mated his fortune at less than ,10,000,000; most would have 
put it as somewhere in the neighbourhood of ; 12,000,000. 

"When, a week or so ago, the total value of the estate was 
declared at 2,562,485, the whole South African com- 
munity experienced a moment of stupefaction. Could it 
be possible, people asked, that a man whose career had been 
so sensationally successful in a financial sense, whose money- 
making instincts had been so strongly developed, whose habits 
had been so notably penurious, could leave a fortune so 
ludicrously out of proportion to the popular estimates of his 
wealth? 

"It seemed impossible that this should be the case, but there 
were the figures, and it was hard to see how the matter could 
be advanced any further. 

"But the statement which has now been made to the Rand 
Daily Mail places the matter in an altogether different light. 
Obviously, a Government inquiry into the question is neces- 
sary* If the facts are as stated, an enormous source of revenue 
to the Union Government is threatened. Many hundreds of 
thousands of pounds are involved. 

"Sir J. B. Robinson certainly had sentimental feelings to- 
wards the Government of Italy. There have been many 
evidences of that. And there was a direct personal tie in the 
fact that his second daughter is the wife of Count Labia, a 
member of one of the oldest patrician families of Venice, and 
one of the most highly-favoured of the proteges of the Italian 
Dictator, Mussolini, after whom one of their children has 
been named. 

"In this connection it is very interesting to note that very 
shortly after Sir Joseph Robinson's death a decree was is- 
sued by the Italian Government creating an Italian legation 
at Capetown and nominating Count Labia, who had hitherto 
acted as Consul, as Minister Plenipotentiary in South Africa, 
Shortly before that various South African representatives had 
been given similar status abroad. What amount of signifi- 
cance is to be attached to these events, considered in conjunc- 
tion, it is impossible to say, but they certainly seem to provide 
occasion for thought, especially in view of the fact that in 

[212] 



THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

later years Sir Joseph Robinson is known to have entertained 
an exceptionally kindly feeling towards Nationalist Govern- 
ment. 

"The report which has reached the Rand Daily Mail is given 
with all reserve, but it is certainly sensational enough to de- 
mand immediate searching investigation on the part of the 
Government. The loan is said to bear interest at the rate of 
5 per cent, and a further condition is alleged to be that it is 
free of income tax and death duties. 

"Further developments will be awaited with eager anxiety 
by the whole of the white population in South Africa." 

There were no further developments, of course, apart from a 
vigorous denial of the newspaper's imputations by the Italian 
Consulate at the Cape. And so the theory that Robinson had rid 
himself of his millions by lending them to Italy remains no more 
than a theory built up from suspicion and circumstance and having 
no solid foundation of fact. It was well that the Rand Daily Mail 
published its opinion with emphasized reserve. 

But when Robinson's will was made known it provided a far 
more substantial basis for comment. 

This document bequeathed the entire fortune of the millionaire 
to his family. Not one single penny was left to charity or to the 
country which had proved so profitable to Robinson. The dis- 
tribution of the money among members of the Robinson family 
was unusually unbalanced. 

The will directed that the estate be divided into three parts. 
The interest on one-third was to go to Lady Robinson, for life, 
on condition that she should support and maintain her daughters 
Constance and Leonara. 

One-third was to go free and absolute to Countess Labia, who 
was also appointed executor with full powers. The interest on 
two-thirds of the remaining third part was bequeathed to the new 
baronet, Sir Joseph Robinson, while the capital was held in trust 
Miss Florence Robinson was to receive the other third. 

Mrs. Young, another daughter, was to receive one thousand 
pounds: 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

"And no further amount of capital shall accrue to her either 
directly or indirectly." 

The two children of Wilfred Robinson, another son who died 
in 1922, were to receive five hundred pounds each. 

This was the old man's swan-song. 

It was left to a newspaper to write the country's epitaph on Sir 
Joseph Benjamin Robinson. Sick of restraint, weary of conven- 
tion, and rebelling against both hypocrisy and a silent acceptance, 
the Cape Times removed a pencil from behind its ear and at last 
wrote what it had always wanted to say. 

The next morning the column reserved for leading articles 
was filled with a candor and a vehemence unusual enough to make 
newspaper history: 

"*Dc mortuis' says the Latin proverb, 'nil nisi bonum,' 
which is to say that when a man is dead nothing but good 
should be spoken about him. But dead men speak through 
the wills which they leave behind them; and some men are 
so unfortunate, or, it may be, so inveterately evil in their 
lives, that the voice with which they speak through their wills 
after they arc dead has nothing but evil to say of them. *Ex 
mortuis! in that case, 'nil nisi mdum} which is to say that 
the wills of such men say nothing but evil about them, thus 
negativing the reluctant reticence which their death imposes 
upon those who survive them. 

"Among such wills, speaking nothing but evil about their 
makers, the will of the late Sir Joseph Robinson is most deadly 
conspicuous. He is in his grave, and the voice of his con- 
temporaries is perforce silent about the evil which his long 
and unredeemed career compelled them, without known 
exception, to think of him. 

"Thus debarred from speaking their minds about this dead 
millionaire, his contemporaries have at least been able to feel 
that they are under no compulsion to attempt the forlornly 
charitable task of saying anything good about him- Their 
self-restraint from uttering words of condemnation over his 




J. B. Robinson. 



THE SECRET PROFITS CASE 

recent grave is compensated by the words which he has him- 
self spoken in his will; just as their refusal to say anything 
good about him is wholly justified by the will itself. 

"The will offends against ordinary human decency in two 
ways, which would be revolting enough if the sum disposed 
of was insignificant, but seem perhaps without logical justi- 
fication much more scandalously repugnant when they are 
the deliberate intention of a man to whom the chances of his 
mortal life had brought a huge fortune. The will, in the first 
place, throws contemptuous legacies amounting to two thou- 
sand pounds in all out of those piled millions! at the 
heads of one surviving daughter and two grandchildren. 
These unfortunates have evidently incurred the wrath of this 
earthy tyrant, who, unable to take his gains with him to the 
next world, chose to mark his anger against these three, and 
incidentally to brand his own character, by leaving them 
legacies so pitiably small that they amount to a mere negligible 
fraction in comparison with the total disposed of by the will, 
of the proverbial shilling with which the poor father cuts off 
a child who has incurred his anger. 

"The least vestige of decency in the late Sir Joseph Robin- 
son, while he was alive and about this deadly business of will- 
making, would have warned him that, if he was determined 
to penalise these three descendants of his, it would be well to 
leave them without mention of any kind in his will. No 
warning o the depth of contempt which these vindictively 
minute legacies to his own flesh and blood would bring to his 
memory seems to have visited this angry old man. His eyes 
were shut during his lifetime. After his death his will speaks 
out the almost incredible malignity of his nature. 

"That is one way in which this will stinks to Heaven 
though the mention of Heaven in this connection trenches on 
blasphemy against the elementary canons of private human 
decency. It stinks, too, against public decency. This man 
owed the whole of his immense fortune to the chances of life 
in South Africa. He has not left a penny out of all his millions 
to any public purpose in the country which showered such 
immense gifts upon him. It would have been less scandal- 
ous that he should have failed to leave anything to any public 

[215] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

purpose if during his life he had been a public or private bene- 
factor, even on a scale of temperate liberality. He was not. 
His immunity against any impulse of generosity, private or 
public, was so notorious that the name J. B. Robinson became, 
during his life-time, proverbial for stinginess, not only in 
South Africa, but wherever men of the world congregate 
together. 

"South Africa is big enough to feel no grudge against the 
late Sir Joseph on this account; but any newspaper which 
has a claim to represent the public opinion of South Africa 
is under a stern duty not to mince words in condemnation of 
such a will as this. It carries a dreadful penalty. It brands 
the name of the man who made it with an infamy so con- 
spicuous as far to transcend the highest pinnacle of scorn 
which the indignation of his contemporaries could have raised 
against him. 

"The evil which the dead man thus speaks of himself is 
terrible to contemplate. It will live in the records of South 
Africa for all time; and those who in the future may acquire 
great wealth in this country will shudder lest their memory 
should come within possible risk of rivalling the loathsome- 
ness of the thing that is the memory of Sir Joseph Robinson." 

Thus spoke the voice of South Africa, amid applause. 
Robinson, in his life, never heard a verdict more terrible. 



[arf] 



CHAPTER IX 

VISITORS' DAY AT LANGLAAGTE 

THE WIDOW OOSTHUIZEN WOULD BE VERY SURPRISED IF SHE COtTLD 

see her farm today. Probably she would be most annoyed. It is 
true that a great fine drive leads up from the main road which 
has come but a short way from Johannesburg; but the old farm- 
house, with its bare living room and its wide kitchen, in which the 
widow was wont to cook roosterkoeks, has gone forever. In its 
place there is the low red-brick building of the mine office, sur- 
rounded by iron sheds, and backed by the great gaunt structure 
of Langlaagte headgear. 

And where the widow's few lean and sharp-ribbed cattle once 
fed on the stubbly slopes now stands a great white mountain of 
fine sand. A dump, no doubt the widow would call it contemp- 
tuously, but nevertheless correctly. It is true that hens still pick 
about hungrily in the red earth of Langlaagte, but this is not so 
much a fine historical accuracy as the domestic instinct of the sub- 
manager's wife. All else is changed. 

There is even a stone tablet stuck somewhere in the vast area 
of the farm which was never there before. The tablet is lettered, 
and the information it gives is that on this particular spot, fifty 
years ago, George Walker discovered the gold-bearing reef of the 
Witwatersrand. How incensed the Widow Oosthuizen would 
be to have the name of her handyman plastered about her prop- 
erty! How incensed she would be to see cocopans running along 
tracks all over Langlaagte, and native boys marching in droves 
over the farm! How angry she would be if she could see what 
was going on at this moment! 

For today is visitors' day at Langlaagte. 

A number of strange people have collected outside the mana- 
ger's office to go down the mine. There is an elderly English 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

spinster who is long, thin and eager. An American tourist, doubt- 
less unaware that it is only half-past eight in the morning, de- 
stroys his cigar in deep long puffs. Two young officers from 
Simonstown stand apart determined to have no truck with anyone 
other than the Navy, while a small red-faced man who was once 
something obscure in England, and later something apparent in 
India, pushes his way in and out of the group asking irritating 
questions in a soothing voice. Near you stands an old lady whose 
son has just been appointed underground manager on the next 
mine. She is going down Langlaagte in order to keep up with 
her son's dinner-time conversation, and is now wondering nerv- 
ously if her maternal devotion has not been a little excessive. 
There are others, too; but there is no sign, no trace of a Robinson, 
or a Honeyball, or a Harrison. Not even the faint atmosphere of 
their ghosts. 

There is a scurrying sound behind you, and the Anglo-Indian 
presents himself smartly to you. 

"Aha," he says brightly, "what are you doing here?" 

Just for a fraction of a second you are surprised. Your mind 
flies to negative. Is there any reason, you wonder anxiously, why 
you should not be here? And then you are seized with the 
thought that perhaps you have met this man somewhere before. 
On the boat, perhaps. Or during that week-end in Capetown. 
Perhaps you knew him very well. 

<c Well " you say uncertainly. 

"I always ask people that question when I first meet them. It 
makes a very interesting study in sociology. I always maintain 
that it was my directness of approach in India which won me my 
election." 

Government, railway, beet-industry, or Salvation Army? you 
wonder; he did not say. 

"My son/' says the old lady, "is underground manager at 
Crown Mines." 

The Anglo-Indian pleasantly ignores her. 

"Where do you come from?" he asks you. 

"Well," you begin, "I am a native of " 

[218] 



VISITORS' DAY AT LANGLAAGTE 

"Ah," he says, "I'm very interested in the native question, I 
studied it in India, you know." 

"I say " The English spinster comes up alertly. "I say, 

it's quarter to nine, and they told us to be here at half-past eight." 

"He was appointed last Tuesday," says the old lady. 

A man in his shirt sleeves, with a felt hat placed rakishly on 
his head, comes out of the mine manager's office and asks the 
visitors to step inside. You are shepherded into a large bare room. 
In the middle is a deal table piled with old clothes. The man 
with the rakish hat doles two pieces out to each person a black 
mackintosh splashed with mud and a sou'wester to match. There 
is a sound of girlish laughter as the women of the party inspect 
their new costumes, and the English spinster emerges looking 
ridiculously coy in a mackintosh which laps against her knees, and 
a sou'wester which ties up in a bow under her chin. The Anglo- 
Indian, mercifully submerged in a coat made for Camera, is not 
too inconvenienced to ask the Navy if they have ever been East. 
The Navy looks painfully surprised at such a suggestion, and 
busies itself by trying to flick the mud off its sleeves. You, too, 
have a mackintosh of immense proportions, and a sou'wester 
which sits on the top of your head in your calm moments but 
falls off when you sneeze. 

Thus clad, you walk out of the office and begin your mining 
investigations. The dusty road to the shafthead is lined with 
pieces of rusty iron, old wheels, rails, and rods of varying length. 
A few chickens peck about hopefully. In front of you great 
white mountains of sand stand out glaringly against the blue sky. 
The silhouette of these dumps is alive with movement. Thou- 
sands of little iron carriers are laboriously climbing the sides to 
be tipped over the top and leveled off by the native workers. 

The people who have elected to show you round are kind and 
patient There is a Cornishman who has spent more than the 
average lifetime on the Rand, and who hankers now, at last, to be 
home. There is a tall, lithe young man with a shock of red hair 
and an interest in football. There is a neat-looking official in a 
navy-blue suit, miraculously dean, who is addressed respectfully 

[219] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

as "Mister/* not, apparently, on account of his cleanliness, but on 
account of his position, which remains irritatingly obscure. 

They lead you to the shaft-head. A great gaunt mass of wood 
and iron rears itself above you. Below it is the empty shaft. The 
old lady in the party walks up to the edge and peers down- She 
comes back almost immediately. 

"It is very black," she says. "It must be dreadfully deep." 

There is a noise of rushing wind, and quite suddenly a narrow 
iron box shoots up from the depths of the shaft and presents itself 
to you as your cage. This, you think to yourself, cannot be right. 
There must be some mistake. But there is no mistake. With a 
gentle, persuasive smile on his face, the red-haired young man 
asks you to step in. You want to ask whether it is not possible to 
walk down, but you have not the courage. The Navy is looking 
so used to this sort of thing. 

The cage is long and shallow, rather like a large coffin for use 
in tropical countries. It is held up by a simple-looking steel rope. 
It has three stories or tiers, and each tier has an iron door. Some 
of the people are climbing upstairs to get to the top story. You 
worm your way through the narrow opening on the ground 
floor. You have no option but to press yourself against the back 
of the cage. The steel wall on your left is perforated with holes 
like a pianola score. The scraping of feet is just an inch above 
your head. 

The Anglo-Indian comes and stands in front of you. There is 
only room for six people, two abreast on each tier. You are 
wedged tight. The Cornishman squeezes himself in, and even 
the spinster who objects to his pipe is glad. He locks the iron door, 
there is a shout and a ringing of bells. Each number of rings 
means a different thing to the control man. This time they are 
sending a message. 

"Visitors treat 'em gently," they are saying. 

Very slowly and smoothly the cage begins to move. It drops 
down gently and vertically. The darkness grows thick and heavy. 

You have traveled nearly a thousand feet down already, and it 
is comfortable going. You begin to notice that your feet are be- 

[220] 



VISITORS' DAY AT LANGLAAG1E 

having strangely. They are calmly moving upward. You fed 
yourself being pressed against the frame of the cage, and the 
Anglo-Indian in front of you is getting uncomfortably close. 
The next minute you are lying flat on your back, and the Anglo- 
Indian is lying flat on your stomach. You are like two grotesque 
* dolls in an iron box being carried the wrong way up. 

The Cornishman explains that the cage is traveling down a 
steep incline. You wonder a little about that rope, and make a 
mental note, at the same time, to get into the cage last on the 
return trip so that you can lie on the Anglo-Indian's stomach. 

The cage is slowing down. It stops. The iron gate is opened 
and you clamber clumsily out You knock your hat off. The 
bells are rung again, but this time the signals are different 

"All clear let her go, boy," they say. And like a flash the 
great iron cage is whisked out of sight up the shaft, traveling at a 
speed of eighteen hundred feet a minute. 

You are standing now on the seventh level, about two thousand 
feet below the surface. The clearing around the shaft is called a 
"station," and is the central point on each level of the mine. 
There is an unmistakable smell of carbide about, and this is ex- 
plained when a native presses a lamp into your hand. You start 
off, following the Cornishman in single file through a door, and 
into a long narrow tunnel, which has been blasted out of the rock. 
The lamps throw flickering shadows on to the jagged surface, and 
draw the forms of the people in front in dark outline. But the 
light does not last long. It is soon dissolved in the thick glutinous 
darkness. The air is moist and clear, and there is a strange 
silence in the tunnel. You walk on through the mud, skirting 
the wet sharp rock a fantastic procession of ghosts in black 
mackintoshes silently threading its way into the earth. 

There is a kind of pressure about your temples and your eyes. 
The moisture makes the air heavy. Once you slip in the slime, 
and as you laugh half apologetically, the noise belches out like a 
sail caught in the wind. The procession marches quietly on. It 
is like walking through the pantomime caves of Ali Baba. At any 
moment a genie might spring from the rock, seize your lamp and 

[221] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

make off into the darkness. You look accusingly at the Anglo- 
Indian. 

Presently the Cornishman stops. You and the other sou'westers 
crowd round him in the mud. Using his lamp as a pointer, he 
shows you the gold-bearing Reef. The tunnel through which 
you had come was blasted out of barren rock to afford a communi- 
cation and passageway between the various drives in the mine. 
This rock was useless, and apart from strengthening and support- 
ing various parts of the mine, it was regarded as waste. 

But now the Reef has appeared in the drab grayness of the walls. 
It winds its way clearly in a speckled band, now broad, now 
narrow, along the drives of the mine. There is not a grain of 
gold to be seen, but only white pebbles cemented together in a 
slaty rock matrix. The old Dutchmen used to call this formation 
"banket," the Dutch word for almond-rock toffee, and that is 
what it looks like: a gray-colored toffee with large white almonds. 
You follow it with your eye, and run your hand respectfully over 
this the famous golden Reef of South Africa. You declare 
triumphantly that you can see specks of gold in the rock, only to 
be told that those specks of gold in the rock are iron pyrites, and 
that the invisible gold surrounds the pebbles, and rarely, if ever, is 
found in the matrix, or toffee, itself. 

You walk along the side of it, along the richest avenue in the 
world. 

A little way ahead, on your left, the tunnel wall is broken by a 
great slanting slit. You scramble forward to see, and your hat 
falls off. At the bottom of the slit miners in khaki shirts and 
heavy boots are to be seen walking about. These men have 
blasted and drilled their way down there in following the slant 
of the Reef, and as the rock fell away from the gelignite, it was 
loaded into trucks and hauled to the surface to make gold. On 
every level of the mine the same process of blasting and developing 
is in process, as the reef is picked out of the rock and is followed 
down, always deeper down, 

You are invited to join the miners at the bottom of the stope. 
Your method of descent, it is explained, is simple. You merely sit 
firmly on the ground and slide down tie rocky face of the slope. 
You look at that sharp hard surface. You consider the physical 

[222] 



VISITORS' DAY AT LANGLAAGTE 

endurance of man, and then, at last, you boldly ask whether it is 
not possible to walk down. The elderly spinster is already squat- 
ting on her haunches ready to slide. She means to be daring and 
adventurous today at all cost. The red-haired man leaps forward 
eagerly. He offers to walk you down to the next level where you 
will see the jackhammer being used. Some of the others decide 
to come too. 

Slowly and carefully you squelch back to the shaft through the 
mud and water and along the sharp gray tunnels. 

Running down the side of the shaft is a narrow flight of stairs. 
They are steep and apparently endless. As you climb down them 
something whistles past your right ear in the dark. It is a cage 
flying down the incline a few inches away at a speed of one thou- 
sand eight hundred feet a minute. 

Your lamp has been blown out by the sharp rush of air. On 
and on you go, and with each step down you feel the muscles in 
your calves becoming more obstinate. At last you reach the 
eighth level. It is hot and clammy here, and as you start again 
through the tunnels you perspire secretly under your ridiculous 
helmet. 

At the end of the tunnel you come across a narrow aperture 
leading into a wide cavity, the walls of which are lined with gold- 
bearing rock. You scramble forward on your hands and knees 
over the loose wet stones to watch a man on the other side using a 
jackhammer. He drills a hole three feet long in almost as many 
minutes. The noise of the drill is deafening. The air becomes 
laden with tiny flying particles of rock, and as the sparks fly from 
the drill the miner becomes enveloped in a yellow fog. He is 
naked to the waist, and the muscles of his back and neck are 
strained and hard as he uses all his strength to hold the fierce 
vibrating instrument in check. 

The red-haired man has all the energy his coloring claims for 
him. He insists on taking you back to the shaft again and walk- 
ing you down to the next level to show you the sorting processes. 
By the time you get there your thigh muscles have joined with 
your calf muscles in an aching resentment The old lady who has 

[223] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

been following some distance behind has now lost all interest in 
mining operations. 

In the sorting-rooms you see moving belts laden with hundreds 
of tons of gold-bearing rock slowly moving on their way to the 
crushers. Native workers stand along the side of the belt deftly 
picking out any barren rock that may have been included. It 
seems incredible that so much rock could be taken out of the earth 
without causing the complete collapse of the surface of the con- 
tinent 

A piece of banket is given to you as a souvenir. You clasp it as 
firmly as you would hold a bag of diamonds. It is a large lump 
of speckled gray rock. It is worth about three-eighths of a penny. 

And then you make your way back to the shaft, where the cage 
is waiting to take you up to the surface. You crawl inside and lie 
down on your back* The Anglo-Indian crawls in and lies on your 
stomach. You had forgotten your early plans. Six rings, and the 
cage moves off. Gradually the Anglo-Indian takes himself off, 
your ears block up, your feet slowly recede, and the next moment 
you are standing bolt upright again and the cage is at the surface. 
You blink your eyes in the strong sunlight and look around you. 
All is just as you left it-^DUt the scrap iron, the dumps, the truck- 
loads of rock and the machinery hold more meaning for you 
now* You realize that you know just a fraction of the story of 
gold-mining, and yet you know more than most people. 

A native attentively wipes the mud off your boots, and when 
you have divested yourself of the mackintosh and sou'wester, you 
start off across the open ground for the batteries and stamp-mills. 
You are greeted half-way by the raucous, grinding roar of ma- 
chinery. The crushers and stamps make more noise than you 
thought possible. The drums of your ears tingle horridly. 

"Great Scott! What a row!" you say. 

"What?" shrieks the American, 

You admit defeat at once. 

In the machinery-room the din is terrific. Great steel stamps 
are pounding away at the rock, rising and falling quickly, accu- 
rately, powerfully. There are hundreds of them, and the force of 

[224] 



VISITORS' DAY AT LANGLAAGTE 

their united action shakes the building in which you stand until 
the floor dances under your feet and you feel uncertain of your 
step. You see great boulders and crags being reduced to little 
pebbles. You see little pebbles being crushed into a powder, and 
the powder being ground to a slime. You wonder where the gold 
is. The Cornishman is talking away happily. He waggles an 
index-finger at the stamps, raises an eyebrow, nods his head with 
emphasis, and sweeps his right arm round in a magnificent gesture. 
You are standing next to him, and have not heard a word. 

He beckons you to follow him, and leads you out of this build- 
ing on toward the reduction works. Here you notice great quan- 
tities of very dirty water with a scummy froth on top. This water 
contains the gold-bearing slime extracted from the rock, and in the 
reduction rooms it is run over a shaking-table covered with cordu- 
roy. At one corner of the table a patch of yellow shows. 

That, you are told, is gold. 

You have seen thousands and thousands of tons of rock and 
only enough gold to cover sixpence. You are very disappointed. 

Even now this yellow patch is not pure gold. It is transferred 
to amalgam barrels, where it is ground with mercury, and the 
amalgam is sent to the smelting-house, where the gold is freed. 
Other concentrates of gold are formed by passing the slimy gold- 
rock pulp into a cyanide solution containing shavings of zinc. 
The gold is precipitated loosely on the zinc in the form of a black 
sludge, which is sent to the smelting-house for heat treatment* 
All this you are told as you stand in the reduction-room. In one 
corner a great furnace is glowing, and in it are two red-hot cruci- 
bles. Three men rush forward now, and with the aid of iron 
holders and tongs they lift the crucibles out of the fire. 

Very carefully they tip the contents into an iron mold. The 
liquid comes out in a burning stream; it looks like yellow milV 
which has curdled. When it has cooled they knock it out of the 
mold, and there at your feet lies an ingot of gold. 

It is not very large: it is about the size of a loaf of bread. One 
of the officials tells you that if you can lift the ingot you can have 
itasagift You make him say this again in front of witnesses, and 

[225] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

discover that he is quite in earnest. So you bend down to pick 
up your gift and walk away. You strain and sweat, your eyes 
bulge, and your face grows crimson with exertion, but you cannot 
lift the ingot half an inch. Just a safe little smelting-house joke. 

And then, when you consider that it has taken eight thousand 
men all day to produce that little yellow brick, eight thousand 
men pushing, hammering, hauling and carrying all those tons 
of rock to make one or even two silly-looking yellow bars, you 
wonder whether it is worth the trouble. A million tons of rock 
a year they crush in this one mine alone, just to make a bar like this 
every day. Is it worth it? you wonder, and you decide (quite 
wrongly) that it is not 

You say good-by regretfully to the Cornishman, and arrange 
to meet him one day in London. You look deprecatingly at your 
shoes, thick with dust and a fresh layer of mud, you clutch your 
piece of banket firmly, step into your car and drive off along the 
Main Reef Road, past the white mountains and over the very 
same tunnels and drives along which you were walking an hour 
ago. 

It has been visitors* day at Langlaagte Mine. 

The Widow Oosthuizen would undoubtedly have been an- 
noyed. 



[2263 



CHAPTER X 

EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

THE VERY NATURE OF THE GOLD REEF OF THE WITWATERSRAND HAS 

always induced and nourished the popular art of swindling. The 
elusive character of the speckled ore-sheet, the vastness of the 
country in which it is hidden, and the fact that in South Africa the 
miner's dream of home is the discovery of a rich offshoot or an 
extension of the known pay-streak, make the Rand an ideal and 
lucrative assembly-hall for the world's sharpest wits. 

It is the natural ambition and the indestructible optimism of 
man that make Johannesburg so profitable for subtle liars and 
convincing crooks. Every prospector, every digger, every engineer 
or stockbroker's clerk has secretly dreamed of the day when he 
will at last stumble across a golden clue to immediate wealth. 

Every prospector, every digger, every engineer, every stock- 
broker's clerk, has decked out such hallucinations with the proud 
certainty that he will be wise and shrewd enough to give the best 
effect to, and get the best results from, any such glorious oppor- 
tunity. And in a fruitful, hopeful field like this it needs only an 
alert mind and a fluent tongue to wreak havoc on the one side, 
and to reap another man's fortune on the other. It needs only 
some trickster with personality and an air of grave sincerity to tell 
in whispered tones of a rich strike, of a new and magnificent dis- 
covery, to show false samples and to produce forged assay results; 
it needs only some such simple formula to set the victim's dreams 
stirring, and to make his hopes appear so real and so solidly sub- 
stantial that nothing not all the inherent caution and carefulness 
in the world will dissuade him from paying over his good money 
to finance some non-existent scheme. Desire, when it is mixed 
with $old, will not be forestalled; it will take no advice, it will 
heed &O warning; it will be crushed and battered in pursuance of 

[2273 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

the shining yellow goal rather than stay uncertainly at home. 

So it is in South Africa. So it has always been. 

There has been more courage displayed by the weaker side in 
their fight for money than was ever shown in blood battle and 
national war. A courage, it is true, born of greed and a vicious 
hunger for wealth and personal power, but a real courage, 
nevertheless, and one which plunges every resource on the faint 
chance of victory and success. 

In a land where gold makes the foreground bright and glitter- 
ing, where the background is painted in wispy shadows of luck, 
and where all men are ready to take a chance, the swindler suns 
himself luxuriously. 

The qualifications for successful roguery have naturally changed 
as the country has grown older, and the trickster himself has 
passed through more than one stage of development. At first he 
was a clumsy unscrupulous fellow with no finesse and little edu- 
cation. But his mere dishonesty gave him a fine advantage over 
the simple, ignorant, unworldly farmers of the country. He used 
this advantage to good effect. He had no need for subtlety and 
cunning; the most obvious, the most glaring and blatant forms of 
swindling were accepted in good faith by the old untouched Boers 
of the Rand, and when it was all over they neither swore vengeance 
nor cursed the spirit of their mean conqueror, but just scratched 
their heads wonderingly, unbelievingly. 

When this source of revenue was exhausted, the swindler turned 
his attentions toward the business community of the new gold- 
fields, toward the men who were making money in the narrow 
confines of their offices by buying land and floating companies. It 
was necessary to have a little more cunning than usual here, for 
wily men are quick to discover outside dishonesty, and they are 
equally quick to take righteous and pious action against their com- 
petitors. But this was the time when J. B. Robinson was sink- 
ing shafts in order to trace the path and permanence of the Reef, 
and the general uncertainty and geological ignorance which 
existed on the Rand made any story possible, and most of them 
plausible, 

[228] 



EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

So the swindler flourished, and the years moved by faster and 
faster. 

However, a swindle, like a practical joke, is never much good 
the second time, and as the town of Johannesburg and the sur- 
rounding farms grew aware, by experience, that there was dirty 
work afoot, the swindler was forced out of his comfortable habits, 
and was pushed into learning the more advanced rules of his 
game. Even this was not successful, for as the swindler progressed 
in proficiency so did the swindled. 

There followed a period of acute depression in the criminal 
world, and tricksters who had hitherto prided themselves on their 
dilettante methods and on their unhurried, rather rakish proced- 
ure, were forced by sheer necessity to swim in the most scummy 
backwash of their profession. Instead of selling gold which did 
not exist, they began to steal gold which did exist. 

The amalgam barrels in the reduction-rooms of the various 
mines grew lighter and lighter as deft fingers lifted out a mixture 
of gold and mercury, and secreted the drab gray mass under shirt 
or in shoes, to be unpacked in some dark place in the middle of the 
lonely veldt, and handed over to the shadowy outlines of men 
with less deft fingers but more agile brains. For the old-time 
swindler had not yet stooped so low as to do the actual stealing 
himself. He merely organized the system of thieving. He only 
mapped out a plan of persuasion guaranteed to involve the most 
skeptical and unwilling of mine employees. He merely lured the 
workers toward the amalgam barrels with the promise of infalli- 
bility and money. He just sat in some far-off place, watching his 
agents and collecting his profits. But he was not a thief in the 
common sense only in the specialized, rather exalted sense. He 
was a gold buyer. 

The police described him as an "illicit gold-buyer." 

Gradually, as the detective force grew stronger and the local 
magistrates grew more pugnacious, the profession of the illicit 
gold buyer became less and less desirable, and almost impercepti- 
bly the art of swindling was resuscitated. 

This time, however, it appeared in quite a new form. It broke 

[229] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

out in high places. It hid slyly behind the doors of the town's 
most respectable business men. It prospered surreptitiously on 
ledger entries, on debits and credits, on foils and counterfoils, on 
Stock Exchange script. It fastened and fed now, not on men's 
ignorance, nor on the gold of the mines, but on paper ordinary 
paper with penned or printed words. 

And the swindler himself had changed almost as much in 
character as his methods had changed in practice. He was no 
longer a cynical, half -bored young man, amused at older men's 
foolishness but not too amused to be honest with them. He was 
no longer a dark wary thief, working by night, and using the 
weakness and greed of others to satisfy his enormous and com- 
paratively safe hunger for gold. He was no longer the three- 
letter man. He had made immense social progress. Anyone 
meeting Hitn in the street, or in his club, or in his lovely expensive 
home would hardly realize that this was a descendant, a blood 
relation of the old-time swindler. The years had wrought a 
subtle change of balance. 

In the early days a man would swindle because he had no money 
and he wanted some. But later, with the progress of civilization, 
a man already wealthy would swindle because he had money and 
he wanted more. 

Today, like all other professions, swindling is no game for 
the poor man. 

When gold was first discovered on the Ridge of the White 
Waters, the people living on its great scattered farms were very 
surprised. At first they thought there had been some mistake; 
but as the Ridge became crowded with men who offered them bags 
of money to buy their land, the farmers grew less inclined to listen 
to their own private opinions and beliefs. 

The trouble with the old Dutch farmer was that he had never 
been to school, and he could not do addition sums. Subtraction, 
practiced so adeptly by his customer, meant less than the dust to 
him. And when, therefore, a prospective client began talking 
very quickly and in a language which he fondly believed to be 

[2303 




s. 

c 



.5 
tc 



tJC 



3 
*3 



rt 


_u 

IS 



EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

Dutch, and when, to emphasize his offer, he began to throw money 
on the table, the old farmer was staggered, stunned and be- 
wildered. 

This was all according to plan. A man who is stunned, 
staggered and bewildered a man, that is, who is taken off his 
natural guard is a far easier dupe than a man kept comfortable 
and cool by his accustomed normality, and it was extremely im- 
portant for the swindler to start off with the advantage of his op- 
ponent's disadvantage. He wanted to buy the farmer's ground, 
not because he thought there was gold on it as a matter of fact, 
he was pretty certain that there wasn't a speck of metal on this 
particular property but it was near enough to the Reef itself to 
command interest, and he knew where he could sell it as a rich 
auriferous farm. 

The first move in the game was to persuade the old Dutch 
farmer that there was absolutely no gold on his ground. So far 
he was honest. But the swindler next persuaded the old man that 
he had taken a fancy to this part of the country, and wished to 
settle down in order to grow corn and keep cows. Then the dis- 
cussion moved forward to embrace talk of terms and finance. 

Stories of these early dealings of the Rand sound ludicrous and 
impossible to modern sophisticated ears. That sellers should be 
so stupid, and buyers should be so lucky is difficult to credit. But, 
then, it is difficult in today's environments of silence zones, radio 
and pan-continental communication to visualize a whole com- 
munity of people, unwashed, unshaved, uneducated, cut off from 
the civilization of England by six thousand miles of sea: people 
thrown onto the higher reaches of the Rand, and left there to 
grow amid the tangle of wild bush, with the Bible as a tutor and 
the beasts of the earth as companions. The Boer was as little cul- 
tivated as the dandelion before they found gold on the Rand, and 
until then it had not mattered. But with the gold rush came the 
Boer's dilemma. 

His trouble was he could not count. 

There is a tale in the unwritten pages of South African history 
which illustrates well the simplicity of those early fanners. It is 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

a tale told with the ring of a true happening. Its form never 
alters. The facts as related by one person to another remain intact 
and unchanged. 

But the author of this example of swindling seems to vary ac- 
cording to the prejudices of the teller. Some say that it was one 
man who sat in the bare Dutch parlor impudently diddling his 
host Some say it was another. All, however, agree that the 
victim was a Dutch farmer, 

He had undertaken to sell his farm for eleven thousand pounds. 
It was a \2fgc sum, but this old man had heard that there was gold 
on his land, and he had just enough wisdom to demand a big 
price. This was a great bother to the gentleman who was buying 
the property. He, too, happened to know that there was gold 
here, but it was extremely irritating to have to pay for it. He tried 
every trick he knew to sidetrack the old man: he promised him a 
cow that would give more milk than any other in the land; he 
offered the old man a pot of geraniums and a cooking-stove; he 
gave a solemn assurance that there was no gold on this farm. But 
the old man had all the obstinacy bred of ignorance. He was 
firm in his demand. Eleven thousand pounds was the sum* 

The gent went away. He came back next day with a bag full 
of money. He had bought the farm. Buyer and seller faced each 
other across the boarded table of the living room. The buyer be- 
gan to count out the money. 

"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven. 
That's eleven/' he said. 

"Yes," said the fanner. 

"One, two, three, four, five " On and on he went. "Nine 

hundred and ninety-eight, nine hundred and ninety-nine, a 
thousand. That's a thousand." 

"Yes," said the farmer. 

"Well, there's eleven and there's a thousand. There's eleven 
thousand." 

"Yes," said the fanner. 

"Will you please sign this receipt?" said the buyer. 

"Yes," said the farmer. 

[232] 



EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

The old man never could understand how he came to have 
only one thousand and eleven pounds. He thought there was 
some mistake, and that the gentleman who bought the farm 
would pay the difference as soon as he realized the slip he had 
made. The old man never could understand what a receipt meant 

Whoever it was did a good day's work, for the story, though 
unlikely, is true. 

Normally, the swindler, having purloined property in some such 
simple fashion, would hasten into town, where he would inter- 
view a hopeful and ambitious business man. First he would tell 
some long, sensational yarn about rich ore deposits, and of the 
rush of rival business men who were competing madly for the 
ground. Then he would walk out of the office having sold the 
old farmer's home at an enormous profit to somebody almost as 
stupid. 

The pity of it was, though, that this artful trick could not be 
practiced often enough, for even a company promoter will turn. 
And as one after another were saddled with expensive waste 
property, the swindler's list of possible victims dwindled miser- 
ably. No man, however greedy, is likely to make a money mis- 
take like this a second time. 

The crook, with his skin still miraculously intact and his reputa- 
tion only faintly smudged, had to find some more convincing 
swindle in order to keep his practice together. It was useless now 
merely to assure a prospective client that the land being offered 
for sale was an unworked gold mine. Such statements, having 
been proved false too often, must now be made to appear deco- 
rously correct. And the only way to do this was to look honest, 
and to allow samples of the property to be taken away for analysis. 

The swindler, thus forced by necessity into invention, thereupon 
created the Perfect Fraud. With constant use tihroughout the 
years, this tricky and indigenous art has become known by the 
affectionate description "salting the samples." The game is com- 
mendable only for its imaginative origin. Its actual conception or 
perpetration is most simple. When a mining house or a com- 
pany promoter is considering the purchase of any property for 

[233] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

the development of its possible gold content, it is customary, in 
order to avoid deception, to send out surveyors and engineers, 
who are instructed to take samples of the ground and to report 
on the analytical results obtained. 

If the assays show a workable percentage of gold, the property 
will be bought immediately, without any price-quibbling, and 
mining operations will be started at once. Thus the embryo 
affairs of any mining house rest entirely in the hands of the 
company's engineers. Their report on the samples they have 
taken is decisive. If they find gold in any considerable quantity 
in their laboratory tests, the property will be bought. If they do 
not find gold in their test-tubes and retorts, the ground will be 
docketed as worthless. 

Today these engineers are selected from among the leaders of 
their profession. They are highly skilled, highly paid men with 
positions of importance and prestige. But in the old days, when 
very little was known about the Reef, the Rand engineers were 
more hopeful than careful, and they were inclined to grope rather 
meaninglessly along the Ridge in their search for gold. SucK men 
were easy targets for the cunningly placed arrows of the wily 
marksman, and even the test-tubes and Liebig condensers of the 
laboratory could be cheated by a certain sort of skill. 

Salting the samples was foolproof for a long time. The key to 
the swindle was to plant gold where no gold existed before, and 
this was achieved in a dozen different ways. First the swindler 
obtained some pure gold; a wedding ring, an old watch-chain, or 
a golden sovereign, any of these was quite suitable for his purpose. 
He filed the metal down into a fine yellow dust. Then, having 
started negotiations with some mining house for the sale of his 
property, he waited for the engineers to come with their little 
sample bags. 

But before the engineers arrived, a subtle and invisible change 
had taken place on the property. It was at this point always that 
the different methods of the different crooks asserted themselves. 
Some swindlers charged the finely divided gold dust which they 
had so carefully prepared into a rifle, and fired it out in a fine 

[234] 



EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

spray onto the rock. Others merely dusted it carelessly over the 
ground with an impregnated handkerchief. But these schemes 
were liable to break down, for there was always a chance that the 
engineers might perversely want to take samples from some un- 
treated, undoctored stretch. In order to prevent any mishap of 
this nature, other methods of salting the samples were introduced. 
The swindler became daring. He planted gold under the very 
nose of the surveyor. Chatting amiably of this and that to the 
buyer's representatives, the swindler would accompany the 
samplers in their tour of the property. He would watch diem chip 
off pieces of rock with an eager interest. He would watch the 
rock being placed in little bags and marked and annotated. He 
continued to chat amiably. Some ash from his cigarette would 
accidentally drop off into one of the bags. Some ash from his 
cigarette would accidentally fall into another bag and then an- 
other and another. 

Normally, of course, he did not smoke that particular kind of 
cigarette. It was too expensive. The tobacco had been specially 
prepared. It had been rolled in gold dust. Sometimes he would 
not bother with this complicated procedure. He would just flick 
plain gold dust into the bags while the engineers were not look- 
ing. 

The rest was simple, of course. The unsuspecting samplers 
would go back to town with their bags of rock. The laboratory 
tests would show that there were rich and consistent quantities 
of gold on the property. The mining house would close the deal. 
The farm would be sold at an enormous price. The swindler 
would go off for an expensive holiday. On his way home he 
would buy another wedding ring. 

Gradually, of course, the engineers and chemists began to 
wonder how it was that they were always making such extraor- 
dinary mistakes. On any given piece of land there was either 
gold or no gold. If there was gold, the chemical analysis would 
prove its presence. If the tests gave a positive result, it was in- 
conceivable that the ground from which the samples were chipped 
was barren. And yet, when the mining company began sinking 

[235] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

shafts on the very spot they had examined, there was no trace of 
gold. Inconceivable, and yet 

The engineers went about their jobs more carefully. They were 
suspicious now. They eyed the talkative man who accompanied 
them doubtfully, resentfully. Some of them even brought natives 
to stand over the sample-bags and so prevent any possible tamper- 
ing. All this, of course, made life very difficult for the swindler. 
He was forced to take risks. He had to rely on pure cunning to 
distract the attention of not one man, but four or five. It was not 
easy. One swindler failed completely to find any opportunity of 
planting his gold dust in the samples. There were eyes watching 
him all the time. He never had a chance. When he said good-by to 
the engineers, the gold dust was still in his pocket. That night the 
laboratory of the company's chemist was forced open. Strangely 
enough, there was no damage done, and nothing was taken. Later 
the analytical report on a certain property offered to the company 
at a big price showed the land to be gold-bearing. An opinion 
from the engineer, included in the report, suggested that this 
proposition should be valuable to the company. 

Of course, some engineers could be bribed outright, and this 
was an easy and pleasant way of obtaining a favorable report. But 
the Rand gradually shed its old slipshod, happy-go-lucky ways, 
and as the Reef was opened up under the headgears and shafts of 
powerful business combines, efficiency in organization and pro- 
duction was improved beyond the hopes of the reformer, and be- 
yond the fears of the crook. 

The swindler was slowly frozen off his illicit perch, and he 
began to despair. There were still one or two loopholes left to 
him. There were still people foolish enough to be cheated. There 
was still the comfort of knowing that the practice of salting 
samples was almost impossible to prove in a court of law. But 
one day it was announced that analytical chemists could now 
differentiate between gold which had been planted in a sample 
and gold which existed naturally in the rock. This put the lid 
on the salt-cellar. From then onward new ways must be found 
of making money without either tears or scruples. 

[236] 



EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

There is a rather charming story told in South Africa of an old 
farmer who was not such a fool as he looked. This old man knew 
all about the ways of the salter, for he had heard them described 
in town hotel and country cottage. The idea seemed excellent to 
him. One morning, after a great deal of bickering and sentimental 
reproach, he managed to borrow his wife's wedding ring. In a 
back shed he secretly filed it down to a fine powder. He scattered 
the gold dust onto some rocks and pebbles he had dug up on his 
farm, put the doctored rubble into a bag, and set off for Johannes- 
burg. He went to call upon a prominent mining house, and when, 
at last, he was led into the respectability of the secretary's office, he 
stood awkward and embarrassed. 

"I'm only a poor farmer, sir," he said, as he fingered his great, 
wide-brimmed hat nervously, "I'm only a poor farmer, and I don't 
pretend to know anything, least of all about mining and such new- 
fangled notions. But from what I have seen and heard tell, I 

think Well, while I was digging on my farm round Eagle's 

Nest way Well, sir, the truth of the matter is, sir; I think 

I've got copper on my farm. Yes, sir, copper." 

The secretary looked up in his pale efficiency. 

"If you will leave your samples here, we will have them analyzed 
for you, and will communicate with you in due course," he said. 

The old man went back to his farm. Fortunately his wife had 
temporarily forgotten about her wedding ring. 

Shortly afterward a report on the farm near Eagle's Nest was 
sent in to the mining company by the chief analyst. The essays 
showed an exceptionally high gold content on the samples re- 
ceived. The usual austerity of the office was ruffled with in- 
credulity. Good lord! the old farmer's land was gold-bearing. 
Good lord! the old man didn't know it! He thought it was 
copper. By jove! What an opportunity! The farm must be 
bought at once. The old man must be paid well, say, fifteen 
thousand pounds for his copper. Ha, ha, what a bargain: fifteen 
thousand pounds for a gold mine. 

Ha, ha! 

The old man bought his wife a new wedding ring the following 

[237] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

week. He went to church in his usual complacent mood. After 
all, he hadn't pretended there was gold on his land. He hadn't 
even said so. He told them quite plainly that he thought it was 
copper. Apparently he had made a mistake, for there was no 
copper on his farm. Well, it was unfortunate. And he had never 
mentioned the word gold. He could not be blamed for their 
faulty judgment. It was unfortunate for them. Yes, Martha 
liked her new ring better than the old one. He would buy her a 
necklace later on, probably 

Round about the years 1890 to 1895, when the illicit gold buyer 
was in the heyday of his fortune, it was estimated that one-tenth 
of the entire output of the Rand was being stolen. Every mine 
along the Reef was being burgled by its own employees, acting 
under the influence of the hidden I.G.B. man. The thefts became 
so regular, and the losses incurred by the various mining houses 
grew to such large proportions, that the Chamber of Mines was 
moved by duty and a sense of approaching disaster to declare that 
there was "the strongest reason to suppose that thefts of gold are 
continually taking place through the fields." 

As if to support and bolster up such a novel and daring sup- 
position, the report of the Chamber of Mines, for the year 1891, 
continues: 

"Indeed, it is to be feared that unless some adequate pre- 
ventive measure is at once applied, the theft of gold will grow 
into a systematic and organised practice which it will be ex- 
tremely difficult to check or control. . . . The present officers 
of the detective department receive constant information con- 
cerning parcels of stolen gold, but their hands are simply 
paralysed by want of funds, and they are compelled to allow 
the practice to go on almost under their own eyes, for want 
of the necessary means to secure conviction of the offenders." 

The scene of the crime never varied. The gold always dis- 
appeared from the reduction-rooms of the various mines along the 
Rand. The actual recovery of gold from granite is effected in the 

[238] 



EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

reduction-room. The auriferous rock which has been crushed to 
a fine sand was mixed with water, and was, in those days, passed 
over amalgamated copper plates in order to bring any free gold 
into contact with mercury, which amalgamated with it. These 
plates were periodically scraped and the gold amalgam was re- 
moved. Later in the process the gold amalgam was retorted and 
the gold was recovered in a spongy mass, which was melted into 
bars and sent to the refinery for purification. 

There are, as a rule, two workers on duty in the reduction-room 
during each shift, and there is always a perfectly normal and 
natural reason why one of them should leave the room at least 
once during the shift. For a few minutes the other worker is left 
alone with the concentrated gold of the mine; a few minutes is 
long enough, though, to unscrew the amalgam barrel, remove 
perhaps a handful of the glutinous gray content, secrete it some- 
where, and be unruffled and calmly at work when the second man 
returns. 

As the mine authorities have never adopted the policy of search- 
ing their employees before they leave the property, the first stage 
in the theft is conducted with comparative ease. The workmen 
who steal amalgam from the reduction-rooms are usually men 
with large and vociferous families, men who have fallen into debt 
and can find no honest way of meeting their obligations, or young 
miners with advanced and expensive ideas. 

The illicit gold dealer has already made contact with such 
worried workers. He and his agents have probably met them 
casually at some pub or race-course, or perhaps they have forced 
an introduction through some other person. When desire, or 
necessity, presses the worker hard, the time is ripe for the illicit 
gold dealer to put his proposition Tyith all the skill and eloquence 
possessed by the average criminal. He will explain that the actual 
theft of the amalgam is child's play. It is as simple as the alphabet. 
It is as safe. When the workman has appropriated any con- 
venient quantity of amalgam, all he has to do is to hand it over at 
a prearranged place to an appointed agent. He will get paid at 
once. That would be all. Just like falling off a log. Money for 

[239] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

jam* Of course, it is suggested, to avoid all possible chances of 
detection, it is advisable to steal a small quantity every shift rather 
than a large quantity at odd intervals. Small quantities of amal- 
gam can never be missed from a barrel. 

Once the illicit gold buyer has persuaded the wretched work- 
man to steal for him, he does not appear anywhere near the mine 
or the miner again. He veils himself behind a curtain of agents. 
It is the agent who meets the thief at some lonely, unwatched place. 
It is the agent who pays for the amalgam. The illicit gold buyer 
himself is at home, or in his office waiting to receive the parcel. 

Very often natives are used as carriers by both buyer and seller. 
The mine worker will send some unsuspecting native to keep an 
appointment with the agent The agent, too, will send a native 
runner to receive the parcel, for if any risks are to be taken, if 
police and detectives are to be eluded, it is considered better that 
a black man should have this job. 

The illicit gold buyer pays the thief for the amalgam at the 
rate of ten shillings an ounce. If, for example, he receives a parcel 
of thirty ounces, he pays over fifteen pounds for this. Then in his 
secret workroom he smelts the amalgam down, and obtains ten 
ounces of fine gold, the value of which, at today's price of gold, 
would be about seventy pounds. 

Now, a very large number of illicit gold buyers are small manu- 
facturing jewelers, who use their official license to handle un- 
wrought gold, as a shield against inquiries and interference. 
Ostensibly their business is that of a manufacturing jeweler. Their 
premises are small and dingy. Their stocks are cheap and gaudy, 
and they appear to be battling for a living. Such a decor lends 
itself admirably to the business of deceiving the public and hood- 
winking the police. The old jeweler in a torn black coat who 
shuffles meaninglessly behind a cheap-jack counter is a pathetic 
figure, A poor, broken old man, trying in his simple, soiled way 
to make enough money to keep him alive in his last days. But 
behind all the rings and bracelets and walking-sticks in the shop 
there lie ounces of pure gold, and the old man is richer than all 
his sympathizers. 

[240] 



EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

The illicit gold buyer who hides behind the profession of manu- 
facturing jeweler will pay fifteen pounds gladly for thirty ounces 
of amalgam, for when he has smelted it down to pure gold he 
will then reduce it from fine gold to nine-carat gold, which will 
bring him a sum of two hundred pounds. Those illicit dealers who 
do not hide behind a shop-front conceal their smelting apparatus 
in their kitchens or their back gardens, or in some disused shed. 
They do not bother to produce nine-carat gold. Either they them- 
selves sell the fine gold to a manufacturing jeweler of bad repute, 
or else they cast the metal into rough bracelets and necklaces to 
resemble Indian jewelry, and send it through their agents to the 
coast, where there is no Gold Law. 

At the coast the gold is either made up into nine-carat jewelry, 
or else it is shipped to India. The huge profits made by the 
illicit gold buyers enable them to afford a very efficient and well- 
organized system of agents and runners. A clear and frequent 
profit of seventy-five per cent can buy a great deal of reliable 
service, and the I.G.B. man pays well for trustworthy dishonesty* 

At the time when the Chamber of Mines had strong reason to 
suppose that thefts of gold were continually taking place on the 
fields, the illicit gold buyer was working in his own particular 
heaven. The police were insignificant and weak enough to prove 
more stimulating than stultifying. The law was a lame and 
mangy cat trying feebly to corner active and artful troops of mice. 
Illicit gold buying was almost as safe and as profitable as its per- 
petrators claimed. But this Elysium for criminals was not to last. 
Not only did the police force become more adequate, but the 
mining houses themselves discovered that it was cheaper to insti- 
tute their own detective departments than to accept the losses in- 
curred by gold thieves. 

Today on the Rand illicit gold buying is still practiced, and 
practiced profitably. But it is a game for the minority. It is a 
game of hazards and risks, with long-term imprisonment wait- 
ing for the man who slips and falls. The cat is strong and alert. 
It prowls watchfully. The mice are nervy and easily scared. Oc- 
casionally one of them manages to run between the paws of the 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

cat; occasionally one of them gets caught in the sharp strong teeth 
that wait for it. 

Illicit gold buyers are caught by the law in a system of police 
tests and traps. Activities are started in the usual old-fashioned 
way by the informer the man who has quarreled with his con- 
federate. The nark, as they say in England, goes to the police 
with a detailed account of an illicit concern. He offers, or is 
induced to offer, an introduction to the illicit dealer. The police 
have to tread very carefully now. They must be quite sure of 
their facts before they act. It would not do to arrest some in- 
nocent man on the charge of I.G.B. So, at first, they do not 
attempt to arrest anybody. Instead they perform a series of tests. 
The informer obligingly introduces the plain-clothes man to the 
illicit dealer. The informer explains that this is a new customer. 
The two men talk vaguely but meaningly for a short while. Then 
the policeman goes away. He has done nothing but talk. He has 
merely prepared the ground for a test Soon after he is ready to 
carry it out. 

At the police-station the detective is given a parcel of amalgam, 
made up to look like the ordinary stolen material. Then all his 
personal cash is removed from his pockets, and he is ready for the 
job. He sets off with two other detectives following closely on his 
heels. They shadow him. They see him enter the workshop, and 
they wait quietly and unostentatiously for him to come out again. 

Presently he appears, and without word or signal walks quickly 
away. The two detectives follow him to a specified meeting- 
place. Here the investigating policeman is searched by his two 
colleagues. If they find gold amalgam in his pockets, the test has 
failed; but if he has money now instead of amalgam the test is 
officially successful, and the real business of trapping the dealer 
can be undertaken. 

Trapping is similar to testing in all but the finale. The plain- 
clothes man sets out a second time with gold amalgam in his 
pocket. He is confident that he can make a deal again with the 
illicit gold buyer. This time he is shadowed by detectives who 
wait outside the workshop. They are waiting now for a 

[242] 



EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

from their man inside, and when it comes, perhaps in the form 
of a sneeze or the careless waving of a white handkerchief, they 
rush inside and arrest the suspected dealer. They search the man 
who trapped him, and they find money in his pockets; they search 
the dealer and they find gold amalgam on his bench. Their 
case is complete. 

They caught Old Solomon and a host of others like this. At the 
top of a tall building in Eloff Street, Arthur Solomon carried on 
the business of a manufacturing jeweler. He was licensed to 
handle unwrought gold. His workrooms were small and dingy. 
He did not appear to do much business. But the police were 
watching him, and they were trying to trap him. 

Old Solomon had been an illicit gold buyer for years, and he 
was well acquainted with the methods and habits of the police. 
Four times an innocent-looking man had come into his shop with 
a parcel of amalgam. Each man had seemed a genuine seller of 
stolen stuff, but somehow Old Solomon felt disinclined to make 
a deal. Instinctively he shied away like a sensitive horse. But 
the fifth time he told himself that he could never make profits 
by being afraid and temperamental. That was the time they 
caught him. It had taken them four months to break down the 
wisdom of Solomon. They rushed in to search his workshop. 
The benches were stacked with gold amalgam and roughly cast 
fine gold. The old man stood forlornly in his den watching the 
police collect evidence for his imprisonment. He lifted a crucible 
from his work-table and drank the contents thirstily. 

It was nitric acid, and Solomon died in the arms of the police. 

A foreman in one of the Rand mines was discovered stealing 
amalgam one day from the reduction-rooms, and when inquiries 
were made it was found that he had been thieving for years. He 
was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment, and when he had 
served his term he retired on his fortune. Today that man is a 
highly respected member of the community, and is an elder of the 
Church. 

Then there is the case of the young and favorite mine worker 
who was greatly appreciated by his employers, and who gave 

[243] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

himself away by buying first a motorcycle, then a house and then 
a sporting roadster. 

There is the story, too, of the poor weedy-looking individual 
who was stopped by the police at Germiston Station because they 
thought he might be connected with a case of forgery which they 
were investigating. But when they searched his house, the police 
found they had make a mistake about the forgery, for they un- 
earthed the most elaborate amateur smelting apparatus ever dis- 
covered on the Reef. 

It was left to a sportsman, though, to evolve the idea of buying 
a gold mine in order to be a successful illicit gold dealer* The 
mine was in the Northern Transvaal, and he was the sole owner. 
Each month he deposited a substantial quantity of gold in the 
banks, and his property was regarded as a good paying concern. 
The gold was sent to the refinery for purification, and the owner 
was credited in the ordinary way with the value of the pure 
gold he had produced. 

For many months the mine in the Northern Transvaal con- 
tinued to prosper, and eager investors began to look toward this 
part of the country with interest. Then one day the attention of 
the police was drawn to the fact that the gold which this mine was 
producing contained osmiridium, a metal which exists only on the 
Rand, and in no other part of the country. The sportsman was 
undone. His subtle scheme was uncovered. It was found that 
this jovial mine owner was buying illicit gold on the Rand, and 
was passing it through his mills as though it had been won on his 
own property. 

He was making about six thousand pounds a year in this way. 
His sentence was twelve months, or one hundred pounds. He 
paid the fine, of course. 

The Rand Refinery at Driehoek looks like a large but unpre- 
tentious villa, set paradoxically in the middle of the veldt. It is 
surrounded by a low brick wall, which gives it a tone of half- 
apologetic reserve. There are none of the broken bottles so often 
stuck on the crest of a wall by cautious householders. There are 

[244] 



EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

no iron spikes or hungry vicious dogs. The building which may 
be seen quite plainly over the wall is pleasantly gabled in the 
Colonial style, and there is a broad comfortable veranda in front. 

The place, at first, has an inviting air, and its warm red bricks 
and matching tiles seem to promise an interior comfort and luxury. 
All this is an illusion. Those low brick walls, the complacent, 
homely building, the red tiles and the smoking chimneys do not 
constitute some careless, comfortable concern. They do not invite 
visitors or trespassers. The Rand Refinery is the collecting-house 
for all the gold produced on the Rand. It is a great brick safe. 
It is an unyielding prison. 

There is more than a ton of gold produced along the Reef every 
day. It is mined by the individual companies, and sent to the 
refinery each day in the form of bullion, but the metal thus ob- 
tained in the reduction-rooms of the different mines is not pure 
gold. It contains about eighty-nine per cent gold, eight per cent 
silver, and the other three per cent is made up of base metals such 
as copper, lead, zinc, osmiridium, etc. 

This standard of purity would not satisfy the Bank of England, 
and the bullion must be further refined. In order to obtain the 
most effective results, a refinery was established in the middle of 
the Reef some fourteen years ago. It is conducted as a limited 
liability company, owned by all the different mines on the Rand. 
A charge is made to each mining house for refining their gold, 
and any profit which accrues is returned. 

The gold is collected each day from every mine by the refinery 
van a van plainer than Mr. Drage's most recent effort of indis- 
tinction., Inside, however, there is a difference. Three muscular 
men ride in the lorry. Each one holds a sawed-off shotgun. And 
for those who might fhjnk this is mere play-acting, it would be 
well for them to know that the guards will shoot on the slightest 
interference and shoot straight. 

When the van calls at the first mine on the list, the bullion is 
loaded in the yard under supervision. The bars are handed to 
the guards, who screw each ingot down between iron clamps 
under the floor of the car* To make the freight still more secure, 

[245] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

the floor itself is then locked down over the bullion. The van 
sets off toward the next mine, and as it pulls out of the yard, 
advice of its departure is telephoned from the office. If the dis- 
tance between the two mines can be covered in ten minutes, and 
if the lorry has not appeared at the second mine within fifteen 
minutes, the police all along the road are immediately advised. 

At Driehoek there are police on guard outside the locked iron 
gates of the refinery. The visitor, or tourist, who wishes to 
inspect the buildings must first obtain a permit from the Chamber 
of Mines in Johannesburg. His name is telephoned to the manager 
of the refinery, and this, together with a description of the visitor, 
is communicated to die guards. Once he is inside those low brick 
walls, the visitor has next to consider getting out, for he may not 
leave the premises without the permission of the manager. With- 
out this permission the guards will not let him pass. 

In the refinery itself all the workmen are locked in the various 
rooms in which they are employed. The doors leading from 
each room are locked on the outside, and the employees may not 
leave their own particular shops on any account whatever, save 
under armed escort. At the end of the day the workers are not 
searched, but the amount of gold in the refinery is carefully and 
accurately checked before they are allowed to leave. At night 
the refinery is guarded by patrols, and an elaborate and sensitive 
system of alarms is threaded throughout the property. 

Every Wednesday pure gold bullion is packed in the refinery 
yard for shipment to the Bank of England. There are two bars, 
each weighing four thousand ounces, packed into every wooden 
box, and each mail-day dozens of these boxes are loaded into a 
special rail carriage which has been shunted into the refinery yard. 
In this carriage there is a strong room with a combination lock. 

When all the gold for shipment has been loaded, two guards 
enter the carriage. They are locked into the train from the out- 
side. They cannot leave the carriage until the train reaches Cape- 
town, thirty-six hours later. When the carriage leaves the refinery, 
the combination of the strong room which, incidentally, is altered 
every week is telegraphed to the police at Capetown, and when 

[246] 



EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

eventually the gold train reaches the port, the guards are released, 
and the gold is unpacked, and loaded under official supervision 
into the strong-room of the mail-boat. 

With such precautions taken, it is small wonder that the average 
criminal never attempts to burgle the rich storehouse of the Rand 
Refinery. 

There was once a plan, though, to steal the bullion from the 
gold train as it traveled to the refinery. It was a plan which came 
very near to success. 

In the year 1923, before the intricate system of guarding the 
mined gold had been perfected, a consignment of bullion was 
being sent by train from the New Modder Mine to the refinery 
at Driehoek. The consignment consisted of nineteen bars of gold, 
which had been checked and noted down as the bars were packed 
into the special carriage at the little siding at New Modder. When, 
however, the train arrived shortly afterward at Germiston Sta- 
tion, four of the gold bars, valued at about twenty thousand 
pounds, were found to be missing. 

The next day a railway ganger working on the line between 
the two stations was surprised to find a bar of gold lying in the 
long grass at the side of the track. The other three bars had com- 
pletely disappeared. Police and detectives set to work with more 
than their usual determination, for this was a serious crime. If 
bullion could be stolen with ease and safety, every robber on the 
Rand would prepare and give effect to schemes for making similar 
handsome hauls. The Criminal Investigation Department did 
not hesitate. They arrested four people: a ticket examiner and 
his wife, a carriage examiner and a miner. They followed this 
up with further arrests, and gradually the story of the gold train 
robbery was pieced together. 

Plans of the theft had been conceived in detail some time before 
the crime was committed. Arrangements for stealing the gold 
had been well organized, and had it not been that the grass which 
grew on the side of the railway line was long and luxuriant, the 
story of the gold-train robbery must have ended differently. The 
thieves had arranged that the bullion should be thrown out of 

[247] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

the train onto the track at a deserted spot. There it would be 
picked up by two of the gang, who would take it by car to an 
appointed house in Vrededorp. 

The scheme, at first, was carried out without a hitch. Four 
bars of gold were thrown from the train as it traveled toward 
Driehoek. Two men were waiting in a car at the side of the road. 
But when the train had passed, and the confederates went to look 
for the gold, they could not find any trace of it in the long grass at 
the side of the track. Thinking that there had been some mishap, 
they went back to town. But that afternoon they were informed 
by an accomplice that the plan had been carried out as arranged. 
The two men jumped into their car and drove to the appointed 
place, and there, as the sun was setting, they found three bars of 
gold. It was too kte now, and too dark to discover the last bar, 
and they decided to leave it until the next day. As their car 
neared town they pulled it oflf the road and stopped. In the dark 
of a moonless night the stolen bullion was removed from the 
back seat of the blue sedan, and was carefully packed into a wheel- 
barrow. Few people noticed anything strange in seeing two well- 
dressed men trundling a wheelbarrow through the busy streets of 
Johannesburg, toward the vicinity of Vrededorp. 

A month after the robbery no sign of the missing gold had 
been found. It was generally believed, by that time, that the 
thieves had already smelted the bullion down, and had cast it 
into rough jewelery, which was probably on its way now to illicit 
gold buyers in India. If this were so, the thieves were safe, and 
for them the gold-train robbery must be counted a great success. 

But the police persisted. They interviewed dozens of suspects, 
and made hundreds of inquiries. One day they stumbled across 
a member of the gang who, feeling aggrieved, was willing to talk. 

On a March afternoon a train standing in Germiston Station 
was on the point of leaving for the coast when the platform was 
suddenly crowded with police officers. They hurried up and down 
the line of carriages, poking their official heads into every com- 
partment. They seemed to be searching for one particular pas- 
senger. Then a little knot of uniforms gathered at the rear of 

[248] 



EVOLUTION OF SWINDLING 

the train. The police had found the man they were looking for. 
He was an Indian a protesting, gesticulating Indian* They 
seized his luggage, which was addressed to an obscure town in 
India, and they began to examine the trunks and suitcases. They 
found nothing. The trunk contained a few pieces of silk and 
some light articles of clothing. One of the officers snapped back 
the lock disgustedly and began to lift the box back on the train. 
It was surprisingly heavy. The policeman was puzzled. A few 
lengths of silk, some shirts and socks did not warrant this weight. 
He pulled the trunk back on to the platform, opened it, and began 
to tap the fiber walls professionally. The sound was heavy and 
muffled. He ripped the striped calico lining away from the bottom 
of the box, and there, neatly packed between strips of wood, were 
thinly molded slabs of gold. 

The whole trunk was reinforced with stolen gold. There were 
thirty slabs of it, especially molded to fit round the sides and base 
of this innocent-looking fiber trunk. The rest of the missing bul- 
lion was found in the stable of a house in Vrededorp. Two men 
did eighteen months* hard labor in the Johannesburg prison for 
the gold-train robbery. The grass had been too long for them. 

Today the bold dramatic ways of the old-time swindler are lost. 
Although the effects achieved are almost the same, there is 
nothing picturesque or daring about their origin. It is more a 
matter of manipulation and maneuver than straightforward crime. 
It is more a matter of pretending, without actually saying so, that 
gold exists where there is none. It is a manipulation of share- 
buying and selling, and a persuasive appearance of sincerity. It is 
rare, but it is still swindling. 

Why, there are men today in Johannesburg 



[249] 



CHAPTER XI 

SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 

ACCORDING TO THE NURSERY PHILOSOPHY RELATIVE TO CHOCOLATES 

and cream cakes, all good things come to an end. So it was, or 
so it seemed to be, with the gold of the Witwatersrand. More 
than forty years of blasting and crushing, of hauling and hammer- 
ing, began to tell on the speckled gold sheet which had dipped 
untouched for centuries into the Ridge that divided the White 
Waters of the Transvaal. The activities of the people who had 
come in search of gold had weakened the rich resources of the 
earth; their instruments had prized open the golden treasure-box; 
their hands had lifted out the most valuable of its contents. They 
had left behind empty gaps, and gaping holes, black squares of 
darkness to mark, negatively, the places where once gold had 
existed. 

Forty years of energetic progress by man and his machinery 
will destroy much in a program of creation and production. The 
vast sheet of conglomerate had yielded up its richest treasures 
under the compulsion of drill and dynamo for so long. 

There must be an end. 

It was in 1929 that the end of the Witwatersrand Gold Reef 
was in sight. That year the Government Mining Engineer, in an 
estimate prepared for the Gold Delegation to the Financial Com- 
mittee to the League of Nations, prophesied that the output of 
gold from the Transvaal would reach its peak in the year 1932 
with a total production of forty-three million, eight hundred 
thousand pounds worth of metal. After that, production values 
would drop steadily, until, in 1940, the yield would have dwindled 
to ten million pounds. 

It was a drab, but statistical, forecast of the decline of some great 
splendor. Many of the mines which had opened the life cf the 

[250] 



SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 

Rand would be dead by then; they would have been worked to 
a standstill, and only their derelict, rotting shaft-heads would live 
a little longer to tell silently of past glories. Soon, as the years 
moved on relentlessly, other mines along the Reef would close 
their gates to the bands of active, strong-limbed workers; the 
sounds of battery and crusher would be muffled and then stilled, 
and in the end, perhaps, the Rand would be no more than a sign- 
post of history and a meeting-place of the four winds of the earth* 

Such was the picture conjured up by the words of the Govern- 
ment Mining Engineer. He did not say, nor would he say, that 
the Rand would dwindle and die because there was no gold left. 
There was plenty. There would be plenty for many years. But 
it was too thin, too widely scattered, to be payable. It occurred 
weakly in the great mass of rock under the ground. It could not 
yield enough profit to cover the costs of mining. It was what they 
called low-grade ore. 

The amount of gold deposited on the speckled conglomerate 
of the Reef varies very widely, not only from mine to mine, but 
also within the boundaries of each mine itself. In some places 
there might be eight or ten pennyweights of gold to the ton of 
rock. A few yards away there might be no more than one or two 
pennyweights. There would perhaps be great obstructing regions 
with no gold at all. 

During the forty years of its life the Rand had naturally mined 
all the richest ore first, making gold while the sun still shone, 
and leaving the poor-quality rock on one side like a bad debt. 

But all good things come to an end. 

So the rich reserves of the Rand began to peter out, and only 
the despised low-grade ore was left in any quantity. The world 
price of gold at that time was a little under eighty-five shillings 
an ounce, and the absolute limit of payability on the Reef was a 
yield of four and one-half pennyweights a ton. Anything less 
than this could only be worked at a loss. Despite the efficiency 
of mining methods and the thoroughness and competence of the 
Rand organizations, operating costs on the mines could not be 
reduced far enough to make it possible to work the low-grade ore, 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

and this, on the majority of properties, was the only standard of 
quality left. 

In 1930 the Witwatersrand was in an unhappy position. It 
cost nineteen shillings to mine every ton of ore, and this figure 
excluded all possibility of working the great bulk of the low-grade 
ore in the mines. The authorities were faced with the same 
considerations that led to the Rand Revolt in 1922. Unless the 
price of gold was increased, or working costs reduced, the industry 
could not continue. The price of gold was regulated by inter- 
national forces, and could not be altered by the commercial desires 
of any individual country. To tamper with working costs was to 
interfere with wages and conditions of labor, and this, as every- 
one knew, would be not only dangerous, but disastrous. 

The following year, in 1931, a Low-Grade Ore Commission was 
appointed by the Government to inquire into the position. It 
met to consider the question of granting subsidies to the low- 
grade mines. Subsidizing the Witwatersrand: subsidizing what 
had been, until then, the richest stretch of ground in the world. 
It was almost ironical. 

The evidence given before this Commission by the Gold Pro- 
ducers* Committee showed that a reduction of two shillings in 
the cost of working every ton of ore would lead to a fifty per cent 
increase in the life of the Witwatersrand; a reduction of four 
shillings would more than double the life of the mines. 

But before the Government Commission had had time to give 
its findings on the claims of the mining industry, an event occurred 
which outweighed in importance all local considerations. 

Great Britain abandoned the gold standard. 

The month was September and the year was 1931. 

There followed in South Africa a time of complete chaos. At 
first the great bulk of people who had never heard of the gold 
standard could not readily understand what its abandonment 
meant, and when, as a duty, they gave their opinion on the posi- 
tion, they all supported the devil they knew, and agreed that South 
Africa at least should adhere, as formerly, to this gold-standard 
business. Gradually, however, the voices of the people who did 

[252] 



SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 

understand the position were heard above the din of consternation 
and perplexity; and loud among such voices of economic intelli- 
gence was that of the gold-mining industry. 

The powerful organization of the industry and expert guidance 
of the Chamber of Mines was conscious now of the immense im- 
portance of its place in South African affairs, and was accordingly 
conservative in the opinions it uttered. In the beginning the gold- 
mining industry approved the Government's program of inaction. 
It was thought wiser to wait and see what happened than actually 
to make anything happen. The outlook, said the President of 
the Chamber of Mines, "was most uncertain and obscure. It ap- 
peared sensible for South Africa not to take precipitate action, but 
to put to the test, on the one hand, the ability of South Africa to 
remain on the gold standard, and to see, on the other hand, the 
degree of stability attaching to sterling, the following of which 
presented the only practical alternative to remaining on gold 
standard.** 

While gold remained in international demand, and there seemed 
no reason why it should not continue to hold such a position of 
command and demand, the safety of the industry itself was not 
threatened. The problem occurred only in discovering the best 
plan of action. Many of the foremost authorities of the country 
held that it were better to adhere to the gold standard rather than 
purposely participate in the risk of a collapse of international 
currency. Again, it was assumed that the abandonment of the 
gold standard would be followed by an increase of costs which 
would cancel out the beneficial effects of a premium, while an 
adherence to the gold standard would eventually bring about a 
reduction of costs in the industry, including that of gold-mining. 

But while the leaders of economic opinion were still arguing 
with each other as to the best procedure to be followed for the good 
of South Africa, the country itself had fallen into a shocking state 
of commercial confusion. The acrobatics of the exchange rates 
had induced a situation of disastrous disorder. The average man 
was now able to send his money to England at an enormous profit, 
and people who had idle cash took full advantage of this position, 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

with the result that the country was rapidly drained of its wealth. 

On the other hand, the legitimate business man, the importer 
and exporter, could not collect payments from overseas except at 
a huge loss. Both commerce and, worst of all, agriculture suffered 
heavy damage, and in their fall they threatened to carry with them 
the whole fabric of economic and industrial activity. The gold 
mines, in a position less precarious than any other industry, viewed 
the destruction with alarm; for, as they were always the biggest 
taxpayers in the country, they sensed that they would be invited, 
with the undeniable persuasion of increased taxation, to repair 
the damage. 

And in any case, by this time the Chamber of Mines had already 
decided that South Africa should abandon the gold standard. 
Despite the power and influence of this body of gold producers, 
the Government of the country did not obey. It was only some 
months later when Parliament, forced by the calamitous condi- 
tion of the Treasury, had decided for itself, that South Africa 
abandoned the gold standard. The month was December, and 
the year 1932. a 

Almost immediately the price of gold began to rise, and within 
a few months the biggest boom this country of fluctuations had 
ever known had started. The price of gold continued to rise, and 
it jumped from eighty-five shillings an ounce to the unprecedented 
figure of one hundred forty-eight shillings and ten pennyweights. 

With South Africa's abandonment of the gold standard the 
history of the Rand gold mines was completely altered. Instead 
of facing the unhappy prospect of a declining and withering old 
age, with one sweep of the pen, with one decree of the Govern- 
ment, this industry was presented with another hundred years of 
vigorous life. With gold at one hundred forty shillings an ounce, 
the Rand could at last mine its low-grade ore at a profit. 

This increase in the selling price of their commodity meant 
that the industry, without reducing its working costs, could afford 
to handle rock containing no more than two and seven-tenths 
pennyweights of gold to the ton. Such a large drop in the margin 
of payability opened up almost a new goldfield to the Rand, for 

[2543 



SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 

it brought within the reach of the mine owners all those vast 
acres of rock which had been left alone as worthless. They were 
not even called upon to be unduly clever and skillful in order to 
get the best results out of this surprising new gift They merely 
had to crush the rock, all rock, any rock which was gold-bearing, 
and to wait for the profits to roll in. 

The peak period of production on the Witwatersrand goldfields 
before the abandonment of the gold standard was in the year 
1932, when the weight of ore milled amounted to thirty-four mil- 
lion, four hundred sixty-six thousand, seven hundred fifty tons, 
and the value of this at the old price of gold was forty-six million, 
six hundred seventy-one thousand, two hundred fifty-eight 
pounds. Under the new prices ruling in 1934 an additional four 
million, six hundred seventy-three thousand, one hundred fifty 
tons were milled, but this ore, being of low-grade quality, gave 
a yield which was less by one million, one hundred twenty-seven 
thousand, six hundred sixty-two ounces than the output of the 
two years before. The benefit of high prices, however, successfully 
made up for the reduced yield, which, incidentally, was in no 
way accidental, for the value of the gold produced in the year 1934 
rose to seventy-one million, five hundred ninety-eight thousand, 
nine hundred forty pounds. 

Thus, soon after South Africa abandoned the gold standard an 
automatic profit of twenty-four million, nine hundred twenty- 
seven thousand, six hundred eighty-two pounds was put into the 
pockets of the Rand mines. It did not rest as an intact bonus for 
long; for as the profits of the mines increased so did the taxation 
imposed by the Government increase, and the strip of land which 
was once contemptuously known as Rotten Reef came handsomely 
to the aid of its country in a time of debits and deficits. 

At the beginning of the financial year 1933-34 there was an 
accumulated deficit in the national accounts of one million, nine 
hundred fourteen thousand pounds. At the end of that year the 
Minister of Finance announced a gross surplus in the national 
account of six million, four hundred twenty-four thousand pounds. 

Although, as a rule, Government Ministers are not publidy 

[255] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

grateful to any individual industry, no matter how helpful it may 
have proved, and although the South African Government was 
usually only lukewarm in its praise of the Rand, whose influence 
and power it vaguely resented and whose excellent organization 
put many a Government department to shame, the Ministers 
could not, and cannot, deny the benefits gained by the whole 
country from the expansion of the Rand. 

The Government derived direct revenue from the gold mines 
under three distinct headings. There was first the revenue gained 
from lease contracts, under which system individual mining com- 
panies lease the mineral rights of Government ground. This is 
not exactly taxation, but is more comparable with rent. Then 
there is the normal income tax paid by the gold mines on their 
profits in just the same way as other income-making organizations. 
Gold mines pay income tax at the rate of four shillings in the 
pound, while the diamond-mining companies pay three shillings 
in the pound and other companies two shillings and six penny- 
weights in the pound. The method of obtaining revenue is by 
means of the Excess Profits Duty which was imposed after South 
Africa left the gold standard. 

Just before the Budget discussion in May, 1933, the whole of 
the Witwatersrand was wondering what form the Government's 
new taxation plans would take, and how far it would go. The 
Minister of Finance soon put them out of their misery of doubt 
and plunged them into a miserable certainty. He indicated that 
the Government intended to appropriate approximately half the 
premium that was, half the amount resulting from the increase 
in the price of gold from four pounds five shillings an ounce 
to seven pounds. 

In the Government fiscal year ended in March, 1933, the yield 
from the normal income tax on gold mines was one million, eight 
hundred thousand pounds, while the revenue from leased mines 
was approximately two million, five hundred thousand pounds. 
Naturally, with % the additional profits made by the industry, the 
yield both from normal income tax and from leases rose con- 
siderably, so that by the following year the normal income tax 

[256] 



SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 

had provided the Government with the almost doubled amount 
of three million, seven hundred thousand pounds, while the leases 
provided four million, nine hundred thousand pounds. In ad- 
dition to all this, the yield from the newly imposed Excess Profits 
Acts amounted to six million pounds. To take it a year further 
forward, in 1934 the Government received by way of taxation and 
rent more than thirteen million pounds, an increase of no less 
than nine million pounds, or nearly two hundred thirteen per 
cent, over the taxation revenue of 1932. 

Quite apart from taxation and leases, huge sums of money go 
to the State coffers under a scheme of profit-sharing, by which 
many gold mines, including such properties as New State Areas, 
Sub-Nigel, East Geduld, Daggafontein, and Government Gold- 
mining Areas, conduct their operations on land leased from the 
Union Government on conditions providing for a share of profits 
to the State. The percentage of profits payable varies. In one 
property it reaches the extraordinary maximum of sixty-seven and 
five-tenths per cent. Since this system of profit-sharing was intro- 
duced the Government has made approximately thirty-three 
million pounds; of this amount one mine Government Gold 
Mining Areas has contributed more than twenty-one million 
pounds. This, it should be clear, is a thing apart from taxation. 

The speeches ranging round the Excess Profits Acts in the 
budget debate of 1933 indicated that many members throughout 
the House were of the opinion that the heaviness of the Govern- 
ment's taxation demands was likely to be temporary, so that 
Parliament would need to budget in the year for the complete 
cancellation of its substantial accumulated deficit, and would 
also need to place itself in funds for the purpose of embarking 
upon the rehabilitation of farming and other depressed industries. 
The welfare of agriculture was particularly important, as the 
great bulk of farmers were those voters who had put the National- 
ist Government under General Hertzog into power. 

The Government ideas on the Excess Profits Duty were quite 
candidly based on the contention that the State should by right, 
and as a matter of tide, receive a large proportion of the increased 

[257] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

profits of the mines, and that its receipts should not be Emited 
only to those sums necessary to cover its requirements. Toward 
the close of the debate, the Acting Minister of Finance, Mr. Patrick 
Duncan, gave the country an important undertaking in the House 
of Assembly. 

"The Government," he said, "is not prepared to reduce 
the amount provided for during the current year below the 
amount of six million pounds which they estimated for, and 
which, as I have said, will be the maximum. Six million 
pounds, and not more than that, is what the Government in- 
tends to get from the Excess Profits Duty. In order to give 
those interested in the industry, or those who contemplate 
taking an interest, a certain safeguard, the percentage for 
future years will not run into higher figures than those I have 
just indicated. The Government is prepared to give this as- 
surance, that for the next financial year, 1934-35, it will not 
take by way of taxation from the excess profits earned by the 
industry during the calendar year more than seven million, 
four hundred thousand pounds; that is to say, it will not take 
more than it is getting this year by way of Excess Profits Duty, 
plus income tax on the profits. . . . 

"In addition to that, the Government is prepared to give 
the assurance which, of course, will be binding upon itself, 
but naturally cannot bind a Government that may come after 
it that, as far as it is concerned, for three years after the next 
financial year it will not^ for services of any financial year, 
take by way of taxation more than 50 per cent of the excess 
profits during the calendar year, to which the taxation of that 
year will apply. That undertaking, of course, does not apply 
to ordinary rates of income tax and other taxation which may 
be levied on other profits of the mining industry, or any other " 
industry, but the intention is and that intention will be 
carried out that as regards these profits, not more than 50 
per cent will be taken during the next three years." 

So far as the yield is concerned, this undertaking embodies the 
position at the time of writing. 

[258] 



SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 

Now, the scale of taxation imposed on the various mines is 
worked out on a complicated formula which practically nobody 
understands. It is based on the grade of ore handled, and it ap- 
plies unevenly to the various mines of the Rand. The result was 
that after the Excess Profits Duty was imposed some mines were 
able to declare almost double their previous dividends, while 
others were unable to increase their dividends at all. Even today 
only those people who have spent long hours of concentration on 
this highly involved formula are able to decipher its meaning at 
all, and there are naturally a number of people who maintain, 
with probably more than a hint of political prejudice, that the 
Government authors understand it least of all. 

The mines themselves were playing an extraordinary game of 
mouse to the Government's cat. They, too, mined to a formula. 
They milled only the exact amount of high-grade ore necessary 
to produce an estimated and unsensational return. If, for example, 
some mines struck particularly rich ground, they would probably 
either leave it alone altogether, or else mix it up with a quantity 
of rubbish in order to keep the grade down, and thus defeat the 
Government's taxation plans. 

One manager on the Rand studied the formula carefully, then 
reorganized his whole working program, and legitimately cheated 
the Government of several hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

There is much to be said, of course, for the argument that the 
mines, the greatest profit-making industry in the country, should 
be taxed to keep other industries alive. But the complicated system 
of working the formula has proved a mistake, and the consensus 
of opinion in Johannesburg was that the Government should be 
allowed to take its extra profit a year, but that this should be 
obtained by imposing a flat rate of taxation all along the Reef. 

When these notes were written it seemed more than likely that 
such a proposal for the more simplified working of the tax pro- 
posals would be effected in the immediate future* 

The incidence of mining taxation on the Rand has been dealt 
with in this book in such detail because it forms so important a 
part of the activities of the Rand, and because Johannesburg and 

[259] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

that strip of Ridge are not alone in taking an interest in the prices 
of shares and the values of the dividends. The progress of the 
Rand, its obstacles and victories, has become a matter of inter- 
national interest, which is vividly reflected in the stock-markets 
of the world. 

The most spectacular manifestation of this boom, which was a 
king boom in a country of many booms, occurred on the Johannes- 
burg Stock Exchange. Within the short space of five months, 
from the end of December, 1932, to May, 1933, the value of the 
shares of the Witwatersrand mining industry rose by more than 
one hundred per cent. 

Johannesburg was gripped by the share mania. The town went 
temporarily mad. Everybody men, women and minors rushed 
frenziedly toward the Stock Exchange. People of financial con- 
sequence bought heavy parcels of high-priced and reputable scrip, 
and waited for its value to bound up. A day, perhaps two days, 
and they had made a great profit. People of no financial im- 
portance plunged blindly into a sea of small-priced stock. They 
bought shares at five shillings, eight shillings, ten shillings, and 
waited for the value to leap up. A day, perhaps two days, and 
they had made a great profit. Men stood all day long on the steps 
of the Exchange buying shares, selling them half an hour later at 

a profit, buying in again, selling At High Change, the arena 

of brokers, noisy enough by ordinary standards in times of de- 
pression or stagnation, was now a furious chaos of shouting and 
yelling. 

Great masses of brokers, wedged tight together, shoulder to 
shoulder, cheek to cheek, swayed from one side of the floor to 
the other as reinforcements on the outside edge tried to push, 
punch, scratch and worm their way into the foaming, bubbling, 
boiling center. 

"I buy buy buy " 

Occasionally some shout more stentorian than the rest would 
issue up from the lurching Babel; and then the man who had been 
heard to utter those fateful words would be set upon by a mob 

[260] 



SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 

of howling, shrieking bodies, like footpads descending on a pass- 
ing traveler, like a well-trained rugger team falling on a leather 
ball. 

Elderly gentlemen with gray hair and a carnation in the button- 
hole, who had carried on the business of broking with honorable 
distinction for many years, were pummeled and punched, pushed 
and shoved, torn and tattered once they were caught up in the 
swirling mass of dealers, and when this happened they were 
trapped in a prison of closely fitting bodies. Blue waistcoats, 
brown jackets, patent-leather shoes, hobnailed brogues, thick 
necks, thin necks, red ties, yellow ties, pince-nez, horn-rims 

"I buy buy BUY " 

A fresh onslaught, a new and more forceful attack as the 
bunched brokers came bearing down the floor, struggling and 
gasping, onward, forward, to be stopped only by the antlered, 
be-trophied walls. 

Upstairs in the little box-like offices which honeycombed the 
Stock Exchange buildings, the demand, though more gentle, was 
no less insistent. Cables from London, from New York, from 
Paris long-distance calls, local calls, telegrams, clients in person, 
clients by proxy. 

Buy buy buy 

Young men who were yesterday licking stamps on brokers* 
envelopes were today executing important orders. Beautiful 
women in sable coats were helping their husbands with the typing; 
the office boy was interviewing prospective purchasers. 

Buy buy buy 

All day long the hungry roar went on, and it calmed only with 
the dawn, when the lights in the brokers' offices were switched 
out, when the last cable for the preceding day had been dealt with, 
and when tired men went in search of a coffee-stall before return- 
ing to face a new day of share mania. 

There were big fortunes made in those frenzied weeks. Shares 
rose like rockets catapulted into the sky. King Midas came to 
Johannesburg, and visited ten thousand homes, ten thousand 
offices; and even the typist with spots on her face and a few pounds 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

was lucky at last. Any stock that anyone touched turned to gold. 
Men went to bed worth one thousand pounds on Monday night; 
they did not go to bed at all on Wednesday night, for they were 
worth ten thousand pounds. Clerks mortgaged their motorbikes, 
workmen mortgaged their cottages, wives pawned their jewelry, 
and everyone who could borrowed money to buy scrip. 

Johannesburg was a spinning roulette-board, and everybody 
had made their play on the yellow. 

The quick fortunes to be won so easily, the incessant talk 
of money, the Midas touch, induced a spirit of optimism, and 
aggravated the already keen gambling instincts of the Rand. 
Thus, when new companies were floated, the public scarcely 
waited to read the prospectus before they swarmed to buy up the 
shares. 

Within the first six months of 1933, no less than forty-two new 
gold-mining companies were registered, and every subsequent 
week brought its batch of fresh prospectuses. A great number 
of these concerns had no excuse for existence, apart from a sort 
of touch-wood optimism and the encouragement of an excited and 
jubilant public. Many of these companies declared that their ob- 
ject was to exploit the Reef, and they sincerely hoped, though they 
did not declare this, that they would be lucky. 

Johannesburg, like every good gambler, has always believed in 
playing up its winnings, and there was no lack of support for 
those new companies who were overcapitalized with faith and 
hope. The idea itself of exploiting the Reef was a good one, for 
the golden vein of conglomerate stretching from east to west had, 
some years before, come to a halt The rim of gold which had 
dipped unbrokenly into the Ridge of the White Waters for sixty 
miles for the early miners had stopped abruptly, disappearing on 
the east into a bed of coal shale, and on the west into a heavy 
banket of dolomites. 

The unanswered riddle of the Lost Gold Reef forms today the 
greatest speculative subject of the Rand. Whether the old rich- 
ness of the Reef continues, and if it does, where it may be found, 
are problems that have absorbed the greatest engineering brains 



SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 

of the time, and many millions of money. There are those who 
maintain that the sheet of gold-bearing ore exists only in its known 
form, and that when it stops at Randf ontein on the west and Sub- 
Nigel on the east, it stops forever. There is no more, they say. 
There can be no birth of a new Reef, but only a gradual dying 
of the old. 

Other men with reputations equally important maintain that 
the unfinished rim of gold which has made its appearance along 
the Ridge is but a peeping proof, an uncovered edge of greater 
bulk, like a saucer buried in soft sand with only a fraction of its 
china rim revealed to indicate its position. Indeed, this saucer 
simile is one held in great respect by more than one engineer. It 
forms a theory which has lately become of great importance and 
popularity in the mining world. 

To grasp the implications of the puzzle, it is necessary first to 
imagine a saucer stuck into the ground at a sharp angle. Part 
of the edge or the rim is left showing; it is but a small part that, 
the theory goes, is the Reef as it is known today. The rest of the 
saucer has yet to be found. Mining from the exposed edge into the 
ground has proved that the saucer, although cracked here and 
there, is intact, and that its concave surface may be followed as 
far as man and machinery can go. 

Now, the theorists maintain that the saucer simile holds true 
in every detail; that is to say, leading engineers on the Rand be- 
lieve today that the gold-bearing body of rock dips concavely into 
the earth for some distance, and then, after the flat of the saucer 
has been reached, it curves up again. Indeed, so strong is the 
support for this expert speculation, that companies have been 
formed to search for the Lost Gold Reef over the borders of the 
Transvaal in the Orange Free State, where it is hoped that the 
opposite edge of the saucer will be found curving up. Most mining 
houses of repute, however, like nervous bathers, prefer to hang 
on to the ropes they already know, rather than wade out into deep 
uncertain seas. They are not, it is true, too nervous to spend 
money in searching for an extension of the Reef, which, if found, 
would mean more, many times more, than an ordinary fortune; but 

[263] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

in their search they choose to work close to the known sections of 
the Reef. They prefer to follow the dipping sides of the saucer, 
rather than look in the vast wilderness of the Orange Free State 
for the other side the opposite edge. Thus, the great bulk of 
money which has been spent in exploratory work centers round 
the extreme limits of the Rand: on the west in the country sur- 
rounding Randf ontein Estates, on the east in the land which edges 
about Sub-Nigel. 

Much of the profit that the mining houses have made since the 
abandonment of the gold standard has been spent in exploring 
new territory and searching for the Lost Gold Reef. Much of the 
profit made by the public on the rise of shares since the abandon- 
ment of the gold standard has been lost in supporting the less 
reputable but more ambitious seekers. Small, struggling men have 
hopes just as vivid and enchanting as the dreams of the million- 
aire, and small mining concerns have hoped just as fervently as 
the rich houses to find the Lost Reef. 

If there be any consolation in losing money and in Johannes- 
burg this is doubtful it is for the speculator to know that he 
risked his pounds or his shillings on the greatest gamble the world 
has ever known a gamble which, if it had proved successful, 
would not only have been called an exhibition of brilliant fore- 
sight and unparalleled genius, but, more important still, would 
have brought in a harvest of pure gold. 

Up till now the gamble of the Lost Gold Reef has given little 
else but negative results. Occasionally in the search gold will be 
found in sporadic quantities; sometimes it may even occur in off- 
shoots which can be worked with a small margin of profit. But 
the great rich Gold Reef of the Rand remains a riddle. 

If it does persist, this has yet to be proved; the other half, the 
other four-fifths of the saucer, remain buried. 

All through the history of the Witwatersrand, from the very 
earliest days, the men most nearly connected with the Reef the 
men who knew it most and understood it best have always main- 
tained, in a voice of confidence and certainty, that the goldfields 
of South Africa have only been gently tapped. They have said, 

[264] 



SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 

more than once, that there is more wealth lying locked in the earth 
of the Transvaal than was ever taken out of it. 

So the search goes on. The boom of 1933 did much to speed up 
the hunt, for a large proportion of the money that was made then 
has been sent back into the earth once more in shafts and bore- 
holes. 

Somewhere else in this book it has been said that gold-mining 
is not a poor man's profession. The search for the Lost Gold Reef 
is an experiment which eats up vast sums of money. The reward 
for such expenditure would be more than handsome. But it does 
seem that such riches can be won only by the rich man. 

That is if if the Lost Gold Reef is ever found. 

The search, like a debate in the House of Commons, continues. 

Johannesburg today is the center, the heart, of an industry which 
has produced in the brief span of fif ty years one billion, two hun- 
dred million pounds* worth of gold, if the value be reckoned on the 
old price of gold, or two billion pounds' worth of gold under 
present values. It is a fine bold city, held in a clamp by the ring of 
white mountains that have been thrown up by a generation of men 
who have spent their daylight hours boring and tunneling into 
the dark earth in pursuit of yellow metal. 

These glistening dumps, these man-made mountains, present a 
permanent background to the town. They are silhouetted against 
every Johannesburg sky; in the occasional gray days they are 
bleak and comfortless; under the brilliance of a more usual blue 
sky they are vivid and strangely garish guides. The fine white 
sands which have been piled up laboriously, truckload by truck- 
load, once formed the solid hardness of that dipping sheet of 
Reef. But the roaring, stamping crushers, and the biting, disinte- 
grating cyanide have transformed the obstinate granite into soft 
yielding powder. It is worthless now that it has given up its gold 
it is a rubbish-dump for the rocky refuse of the mines. And yet 
these tamed hills still cairy a trace of gold, so fine, so unsub- 
stantial, that it is more a sigh of the man-made mountains for their 
past glories than a commercial proposition. 

[265] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

Just at the very end, the crushed, battered rock, the sands and 
slimes, refused to part with their identity. They withstood every 
onslaught; they clung tenaciously to that final poor personality. 
Even the great hungry tanks of cyanide could not remove from 
them the last vestige of gold. Thus the white dumps of the Rand 
proclaim their history silently to a passing, unheeding world. 
The gold they hold is so minute that no one bothers. And it is 
only on a day of windy violence that the bleak unnatural hills, 
stretching for a hundred miles from Randfontein on the west to 
Sub-Nigel on the east, assert themselves and recapture for a 
few brief hours their former importance. 

Then the dust flies off the slopes in angry clouds and sweeps 
stingingly over the roofs of the town below, carrying malevolent 
particles of phthisis, which make men cough and choke as the tears 
stream from their eyes. The little grains of white sand are brittle 
and sharp, and on the wings of the wind they search out the 
warmth of a human lung, the comfort of a soft throat. 

When the force of the flying clouds is spent, the sand falls into 
the gutters of the streets, and it is then that the pavements of 
Johannesburg are proverbially lined with gold. Once again the 
white mountains are quiet, and the men that made them turn 
back to tame their work. They pour water gallons and gallons 
of water onto the dumps to damp the spirit of the dust and to 
stop the flight of phthisis. Day after day the water trickles down 
the dumped slopes, and in its course it pocks and furrows the sur- 
faces, making picturesque white Alps and brazen Andes out of 
the old rubbish-dumps. 

Below them the people of the city of Johannesburg are alert 
and quick-stepped. They pride themselves, with justification, on 
their progressiveness, and their activity. They pride themselves, 
with justification, on the great strides their city has made in fifty 
years. It is now the largest and most important town in the 
Union, the London of South Africa. 

And yet, it was only fifty years ago that the Ridge of the White 
Waters was a barren strip of windswept veldt. 
It is very different now, for since that time two billion pounds 

[266] 




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SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 

have been taken out of the same earth. The buildings that line 
the smooth asphalt streets are tall symbols of brick modernity. 
They rear upward sharply, cutting impatiently into the horizon 
of dumps. They enclose behind discreet windows all the latest 
and newest devices for human comfort, whether it be commercial 
or domestic luxury. 

The pavements below are thronged with beautiful women, who 
are able to buy from the city stores the most recent fashion in both 
clothes and cosmetics. The roads are crowded with America's 
most expensive automobiles, and the men who drive them smoke 
cigars and wear buttonholes, and often forget to notice the robot. 

Everyone moves quickly, not only out of the way of the traffic, 
but also along the pavements and into the comparative safety of 
the buildings. There is business to be done, and it must always be 
done at once. It is here that Johannesburg will never be another 
London. It is too young, too quick, too eager. There is none of 
the slow dignity of England about this town. There is no "We 
will let you know in due course, sir," or, "If you will communicate 
with us at your earliest convenience, madam," or "We would 
esteem it a favor if you would get in touch with our representa- 
tives." Such impressive procrastination is as unknown in 
Johannesburg as the Codex Sinaiticus. If there is anything to be 
done and there always is it must be done immediately. Not 
this afternoon, nor tomorrow, nor next week; but now. 

The town is still young, and its virility is that of a young am- 
bitious man to whom anything is possible and everything is 
worth attempting. This is no place for old habits or old conven- 
tions; only old men have an easy time. That is why, if a building 
is to be constructed or a frock bought, it is always the latest and 
very newest of its kind. 

Energy, coupled with money, laughs at the idea of impossibility. 
Johannesburg is separated by thousands of miles of mountains, 
desert and sea from the rest of the progressive world; and yet all 
this world has to offer is within its reach, and this new town, 
younger by centuries than the far-off cities of the world, is more 
progressive. 

[267] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

There Is not a new cocktail, a new dance, a new coiffeur that 
does not come to Johannesburg. There is no price it will not 
j>ay to sample the wares of the world. There is no cost that will 
prevent it keeping the best, the latest, the newest, the biggest, to 
decorate its homes, fill its larders, equip its life. 

The homes of the Johannesburg people are lovely houses built 
on the sides of the kopjes, sweeping down into the valleys, en- 
closing tennis courts, marking off golf courses, edging the spa- 
cious grounds of one or another country club. And when quick 
night falls without waiting for a twilight, Johannesburg homes 
are brightly lighted places for dinner-parties, where the liqueur 
might often be a clear white drink in which fine pieces of pure 
gold hang in suspension until the glass is lifted and the drink with 
its decorative metal is swallowed. Gold liqueur. A symbol. In 
the town there are cinemas which are more modern, more luxu- 
rious than any in London, there are night clubs and poker parties. 

Johannesburg prides itself, with justification, on its modernity 
and progressiveness. But though the outward shell is new, the 
heart is middle-aged fifty years of age. The spirit of those early 
days when the Rand was first found to hold gold still stalks along 
the Ridge. 

The gambler, the seeker after money, the millionaire, the para- 
site, are still here. The game they play is yet the same. The crowd 
that used to hang round Barney Barnato's Stock Exchange con- 
gregates now instead outside the newer buildings in Hollard 
Street The men who used to fog the air at the lamplit music- 
halls take their wives now to the cinema. The men who rode 
quick horses over the rough veldt carrying news of market move- 
ments are the same men who now have chauffeurs to drive their 
cars, and clerks to take information. The men who came to 
make money have stayed to make more. 

Johannesburg is older now than it was then. It is newer. But 
it is no different. There is the same restless impermanency in the 
atmosphere now as there was then. The same atmosphere of 
gambling persists through the years. Perhaps it is even stronger 
today; for everywhere, in every street, in every office, in every 

[268] 



SEARCH FOR THE LOST GOLD REEF 

house, the talk is of stocks, of dividends, of horse-races, of poker 
hands. To live in Johannesburg is to live in a dice-box; every 
throw is a gamble; the sixes might always turn up. 

The very winds that blow are the winds of chance which sweep 
away the misgivings of older cities and scatter instead a pene- 
trating dust of optimism which blinds the men who step outside 
and stings them into a state of exhilaration. There is none of 
the gloom in this town which hangs about the hearts of other 
places. If a man should lose his job today he is not stricken down 
with the desperate fears that fall upon the average luckless fellow; 
for in a town like Johannesburg, where fortunes are made 
overnight, a job needs no throwing of sixes, because twos will 
win. 

When the fortunes which are made overnight are lost the next 
morning, the men who were magnates have no time to fret. 
They must take up the dice-box again. So it goes on. Priests 
and vicars, cobblers and butchers, bus conductors and cooks, shop 
assistants and ledger clerks, all circle and wheel in great flights 
round the gambles of Johannesburg. They call it "having a little 
flutter." Most of them flutter like eagles in the direction of the 
Stock Exchange. 

Curiously enough, although the powerful and impressive 
offices of the Chamber of Mines stand directly opposite the Stock 
Exchange buildings, few people seem conscious that the actual 
business of mining has much to do with market prices. It is, 
of course, a well-known fact that the profits or losses made by any 
individual mine regulate in some strange way the values of its 
dividends. But although Hollard Street is the economic nerve- 
center of the town, few, if any, of the people who swarm along its 
pavements have any notion of what a stope or a winze may 
mean; while the various processes involved in milling the ore are 
regarded nervously by the general public as mysterious and unin- 
telligible technicalities reserved for people with high foreheads 
and deep brows. 

Indeed, the tourist who has the inimitable experience of being 
entertained by a circle of stockbrokers is certain to address a rapt 

[269] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

and fascinated audience when he describes his visit down a gold 
mine. 

It is money that matters, not the way it is produced. It is 
money that matters here far more than anything else. Barney 
Barnato believed that money was power. His successors of today 
hold to this doctrine firmly. And so fifty years have made little 
difference in the aims and objects of the Rand. Those hurrying, 
well-shod feet, those racing engines, those impatient telephone 
bells are doing no more today than the wagon wheels, the relay 
riders and whiskied conferences of the old days. They were 
driving toward the same object. Inwardly it is all the same as it 
was* 

Even the rumble of antagonism between the Dutch and the 
English lives on to tell of past thunder. Despite the worthiest 
efforts of General Smuts and General Hertzog, despite the re- 
cent fusion of the two great political parties, there is still the bloody 
Dutchman and the god-damned red-neck. But with the em- 
ployment of reason, good sense and intelligence, this vestige of 
the past, at least, should disappear and be swallowed up in the 
pages of the future history. Both the great leaders of the country, 
both Smuts and Hertzog, once bitter enemies and f omenters of the 
racial hatred which has split apart the two white races of South 
Africa for so long, have now gripped hands, and are beckoning 
to their followers to imitate them in a splendid gesture. Both 
the Dutchman and the Englishman in South Africa are fine men. 
Each has his patriotic emotions. Each stands side by side on the 
same fair land. 

Tradition has taught each one to stand alone and scowl. But 
more than once tradition has been a false malicious teacher, and 
South Africa, poor in years of history but rich in mistakes, has 
discovered yet another fault in the foundations laid by its fathers. 

The day that Boer and Briton will face each other as true 
friends that day, and not before, will South Africa be a really 
great country. 

Already over the hills and kopjes of the veldt the first clear 
lights of dawn are breaking. 

[270] 



CHAPTER XII 

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

IT IS A PENNY TRAM-RIDE FROM THE CITY HALL OF JOHANNESBURG 

to the property known as Robinson Deep. The main road, with 
its buses and motor-cars, sweeps unconcernedly past the white 
dumps which slope down on to the very edge of the street, mak- 
ing what is no more than a dreary commercial route seem like an 
exciting adventure amid some foreign snow-bound peaks. Oc- 
casionally the soft blank surfaces of the dumps are broken of 
their barrenness by trees growing straight and stalwart from their 
sprawling roots which are buried in cyanide soil. The houses 
which burst through the ring of dumps every now and then are 
little grimy shacks or wretched slovenly cottages, for the land edg- 
ing on any mining property is taken up by poor people and made 
unbeautiful by them in their pitiful efforts to live. 

The road moves on with its cranking, rolling trams past dumps 
and dams and distant headgear. It crosses the boundary of the 
Robinson Deep Estate, and proceeds unruffled and undeterred 
through the heart of the property. Presently it stops at the landing- 
stage to permit a load of workmen, office-boys, and people of less 
obvious calling to alight. It is half-past eight in the morning, 
and the sun is monotonously bright The offices of Robinson 
Deep are enclosed in a low red-brick building bounding the road, 
but their quiet and regulated efficiency is broken by the back- 
ground of sound, no less efficient, no less regulated, but somehow 
less conventional and proper. 

You have a few minutes to spare; as usual, you are irritatingly 
early for your appointment. You find, when you investigate the 
back of the offices, that the noise is a complete roar made up of many 
lesser screeches and grinds. Natives are pushing those small iron 
trucks which have now become associated in your mind with 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

mining. They are loaded with muddy rock, and by a system 
involving the pulling and hitching of various lengths of wire- 
much like a small boy's inventive use of Meccano and string 
they are made to run along miniature railway lines which disap- 
pear through a subway under the road onto the other half of the 
property. Close by more natives are sharpening iron drills, shout- 
ing to one another as they work, and breaking out into wild shak- 
ing rounds of laughter which fly above the sparks of their tools in 
a firework display of sound. Behind them a headgear looms 
largely, and all about are great circular tanks of cyanide into which 
mammoth pipes stead: Iv drip more poison. 

You are one minute late, now, for your appointment, and this 
permits you to keep it. You return to the offices, and after walk- 
ing into the stores department, the general office, the staff room, 
and the pensions department, you eventually find your way to 
the manager's secretary. She is a tall, fair, well-paid typist who 
is rather bored about you until she discovers that you have not 
come in search of a job. Your name? Ah, yes, the manager is 
expecting you. He will see you now. 

The manager of Robinson Deep is a vast figure of a man, with 
a deep booming voice, startling eyebrows, and a laugh and a hand- 
grip that make you like him instantly. He talks to you about his 
mine, leaning back in his chair every few minutes to pull a chart 
down from the wall like pulling down a blind. The map is a 
maze of brightly colored triangles, squares and rhomboids. The 
yellow is high-grade ore, the blue is low-grade ore, the green is 
faulty rock or dyke. . * . The manager explains the construction 
of his mine carefully, and makes a memorandum of any ques- 
tion you ask which needs statistical and accurate answering. 

Yes, Robinson Deep is the deepest mine in the world. Opera- 
tions are now in progress at a depth of eighty-five hundred feet 
from the surface that is, twenty-five hundred feet below sea 
level. You are to be taken down Chris shaft. Perhaps you would 
rather not waste any more time ? The manager offers to drive you 
over to the shaft-head in his car. It is too far to walk. Over the 
road, past the dumps, hooting behind ox-wagons, spurting over the 

[272] 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

railway line before the booms can be lowered against you, over- 
taking trams, past more dumps, and then the car turns to the left 
and enters the iron gates of the Chris section of the mine. 

The manager pulls up in a rectangle of corrugated-iron build- 
ings. A handsome, well-built young man in khaki trousers and 
a heavy shirt comes toward you. He, too, is expecting you. He 
is the underground manager of Chris shaft. There are intro- 
ductions and handshakes. The underground manager has a 
double-barreled name and an infectious smile. There is a sly bout 
of chaffing from the manager and there is laughter about it, for 
he has remembered what you had almost forgotten that you are 
a woman, and a young woman, to boot. 

It is not often, he says, that young women are specially privileged 
guests of the mines. Unfortunately he almost winks as he 
sighs it is not often. 

And never before has a woman been permitted to go down to the 
fifty-ninth or last level of the mine. You, it is explained, will be 
the first woman to stand at the bottom of the world's deepest gold 
mine. You are suitably impressed. Rather stupidly you bet the 
mine manager ten bob that you won't come up alive. It was 
stupid, because either w T ay you must stand to lose your ten bob. 
You realize this long after. 

The deep booming voice takes leave of you cheerfully, and you 
are handed over to the young underground manager, who is to 
escort you in your expedition down the mine. 

First, though, you must discard that light green frock and that 
jaunty, unstable hat. You are taken to a changing-room, where 
you are given trousers, tied up round the waist with a length of 
bandage, a shirt, a heavy khaki trench coat and the inevitable sou'- 
wester, in which apparel you successfully disguise yourself. Then 
to the shaft-head, with its gaping black holes slipping into the 
earth, and its flying, jumping, disappearing skips. 

The journey to the bottom of Robinson Deep is accomplished in 
three stages. Visitors are taken down two of the three shafts. 
They are never allowed down the third stage, because the heat and 
ventilation at this part of the mine make conditions almost intolr 

[273] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

erable for any other than the experienced miner, and the authori- 
ties are naturally averse to taking their guests into the dangers of 
fainting fits, heat-stroke or heart-failure. 

The first stage down the mine is a vertical drop from the surface 
to a depth of forty-two hundred and fifty-four feet. 

This journey must be the most uncomfortable one in modern 
civilization. 

The iron cage which has been brought up to the surface for you 
by some unseen operator in a distant control-room is an ordinary 
metal box hanging on the end of a steel rope. Its dimensions are 
considerably smaller than those of the shaft in which it is sus- 
pended, and as you step into its enclosed darkness it sways gently 
under your feet, and seems to withdraw all the support of its 
iron walls in a mock elasticity. The underground manager, who 
has come in after you, securely fastens the gate, and when he has 
shouted an unintelligible order to the outside world, the cage be- 
gins to move. There is no hesitancy, no gentle introduction to 
the fury of this pent-up speed. Without warning, the cage drops 
down into the earth at the rate of two thousand feet a minute. 

It is a devil chariot, a demon ride. It is quite dark, and the box 
is stuffed with the blackness of crowding, covering miles of dark 
earth, a blackness unbroken by any light, unsuspected in its 
intensity, throttling in its thickness. The underground manager 
is standing next to you. You cannot see him. You cannot even 
dimly discern his outline. You are boxed in now not by four iron 
walls, but by a casement of darkness which fits itself about you 
as tighdy as a cotton glove on a hot day. 

The cage in its headlong flight is thrown from one side of the 
shaft to the other, rebounding, jumping, twisting, falling like a 
ball being hit by an expert squash-player. The noise is deafening. 
It is like a thousand pieces of jagged iron being rained on to a metal 
roof; it is like two battleships in collision; it is like the fall of Eiffel 
Tower; it is like the breaking up of all things solid; it is like hell. 

The cage is thrown from side to side, and the unwinding steel 
rope which holds it thinly gives further impetus by its springiness 
to the bounding, banging box. The floor is seldom under your 

[2743 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

feet; the walls are first pressing against you, then receding sharply, 
to leave nothing but a black space of darkness. The minutes 
pass in clanking iron chains like centuries. It is a hundred years 
of torture, of agony, and you have dropped only two thousand 
feet. One minute. Farther and farther into the earth. The cage 
crashes on into the black hole below. It screams as it falls. It is 
more vicious, more fiendish in its impingement on the frame of 
the shaft. All the rocks of the ages are falling in on the iron box. 
The noise is unearthly. The steel rope is still unwinding. Another 
century. Four thousand feet Two minutes. This can never 
stop. This at last is to comprehend the bottomless well. This is 
falling through space; falling through black night. There can 
be no end 

The cage stops. 

The silence is piercing; the stillness is painful. 

You step out on to the landing level, forty-two hundred and fifty- 
four feet below the surface. There is electric light here, and you 
see the tunnels or drives spreading out from the shaft-head like 
the strands in a spider's net. The underground manager, smiling, 
unscathed, reassuring, leads you along a tunnel as wide and as 
busy as a tube railway platform. At four thousand feet life is 
still easy and luxurious. The floor of the tunnel is cemented under- 
foot. Its rocky walls are cleanly whitewashed. The tracks laid 
along the tunnel are alive with truckloads of rock, which are 
being pushed by sweating half -stripped natives. It is warm. 

The cemented floors are no mere fanciful frills, or incidental 
arrangements for a royal visit. They were laid down with a more 
serious purpose: they were installed for the prevention, as far as 
possible, of silicosis, more usually known as phthisis. The incidence 
of this disease along the Reef forms one of the major problems of 
mining. Every possible step is taken to combat its occurrence, and 
in the phthisis fight the mines spend their money generously. It is 
essential, as a preventive measure, to keep down the fine powdered 
rock which flies out in great dense clouds whenever drilling 
operations are being conducted or wherever the broken ore is 
being handled, To this end cement is laid down wherever it is 

[275] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

possible, and water is used liberally in every nook and corner of 
the mine. Yet the mining companies pay out one million, two 
hundred thousand pounds a year in pensions, benefits and relief 
schemes to phthisis sufferers and their dependents. 

You wonder a little uneasily, as you stroll comfortably along the 
mine drive on the forty-ninth level, whether the fine strong bodies 
you see all around will be torn and tortured one day by this deadly 
disease- It takes fifteen years to set in, and fifteen years to prove 
fatal; it is slow but sure, and hundreds of strong men have been 
mowed down by phthisis. 

In the early days, you recall, they used to die like plague-stricken 
people. They are dying in the hundreds now, every year, from 
an infection contracted thirty, forty, fifty years ago. About four 
hundred white men pay the penalty of phthisis every twelve 
months. The number of black men who die is incalculable, for 
the native goes back to the hills and to his home in the veldt to 
die. 

But the President of the Chamber of Mines has reported that no 
miner who has entered the industry since 1923 has yet contracted 
silicosis. It is early yet, of course. The time limit has not ex- 
pired,, but it is an encouraging report 

You have walked a long way by this time, past worked-out 
stopes, through gates, over little canals of running water, past 
gigantic ventilating plants, along the rocky jagged tunnel which 
stretches out interminably before you* It is a long way. You 
mention the fact to the underground manager. He replies that 
the workings of any mine are far more extensive than you imagine. 
It would take, for example, many months to make a systematic 
or thorough underground tour of the Robinson Deep. There are, 
in this one mine alone, more than one hundred and fifty miles of 
tunneling, running horizontally to the surface alone, apart from 
the many miles that dip vertically and parallel to a depth of eighty- 
five hundred feet. 

You march on. 

There is no actual blasting or drilling to be seen in this drive, 
for it was specially constructed as a main thoroughfare and com- 

[276] 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

municating channel for the different parts of the mine. It acts 
as a link between the first shaft which you have unforgettably 
descended and the second shaft for which you are heading. All 
the broken rock which has been blasted from the lower levels 
of the mine is brought up in skips and pushed in truckloads along 
the great drive toward the third or last shaft on the upward 
journey to the crushing-house. When at last you reach the second 
shaft, you are scarcely as eager and fascinated as you were. But, 
surprisingly enough, the cage which carries you down the second 
stage is far less nerve-racking than you had expected. It drops 
down into the blackness comparatively calmly. You must be grow- 
ing used to discomfort. Your escort, however,, is firmly, though 
charmingly logical, and tells you that this shaft is a good one. 

As the cage swings down rapidly, you become conscious of the 
distance that separates you from the surface. Every now and 
again, as the cage drops past one level and then the next, the dark- 
ness is broken by quick brief flashes of light, like lightning on a 
moonless night. 

Five thousand feet down fifty-five hundred six thousand 
feet. 

The cage stops. 

You step out into the mud and slush of another landing-level. 
It is very hot. You take off your trench coat at once. The air is 
moist and clammy. There is water everywhere. It makes the 
ground under your feet puddled and slimy. It drips from the 
rocky walls of the level. It clings obstinately to your forehead in 
beads of perspiration. They are mining down here extensively, 
and the method used is wet-mining. Water is introduced through 
a jet in the jackhammer as it bores its way into the rock; it is 
sprayed onto the foot-walls and hangings of the stopes and drives; 
it is flushed over the truckloads of broken rock; it is everywhere. 
The air is saturated and heavy with moisture. It will not take up 
the heat from the workers" bodies; it will not absorb the perspira- 
tion. Such extreme humidity retards the energy of the men 
underground and lowers their normal resistance to disease and 
danger. 

[277] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

The heat is oppressive. 

The blood surges violently up to the surface of your skin to be 
cooled; but the perspiration still hangs about you, and the hot 
stifling air presses suffocatingly ; there is no relief. The little veins 
in your temples begin to swell and beat like warning tom-toms. 

The miners are listless and heavy-limbed with the heat. They 
move about their work with a dogged determination, but there is 
no enthusiasm. It is too hot to bother. It is too hot to be specially 
alert and watchful, ready for any one of the dozen dangers that 
lie underground. They move about their jobs lifelessly, their 
senses dulled, their spirits hot and clammy. A risk which they 
would never have taken at tw r o thousand feet seems unimportant 
now; besides, it is the easiest way out. Their bodies are soaked 
with perspiration. It drips away from them in little streams and 
rivulets. It cascades from their foreheads and falls from their 
hands. Their shirts cling in wet ridges to their shoulders. Their 
heavy khaki trousers are stained brown with the water. 

Every day these men lose eight and a half pounds in weight; 
sometimes nine pounds. It falls away from them in perspiration 
as they work their eight-hour shift underground. Then at night, 
back in the cool clear air of normal life, they automatically regain 
their lost weight. Next day in the heat of tie earth it drips away 
again. 

Many men have toiled in greater heat than that which swirls 
about die bottom of Robinson Deep; but few men have worked 
in such a saturated hot atmosphere. The humidity figure here is a 
moisture content of one hundred per cent. It claws at their 
spirits, it eats into their vitals, it threatens their bodies. 

Cuts and scratches fester as plants bloom in a hot-house, and 
then become septic. White men get boils and carbuncles. Black 
men who work the hardest get heat-stroke. The authorities try 
to break the new recruits in gently to the grueling conditions 
which they must face. At first they are given probationary pe- 
riods, during which they are put to light work under hot and 
humid conditions before passing to the hellish business of deep- 
level mining. At one time at the City Deep Mine all new natives 

[278] 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

were passed through a specially constructed hot chamber before 
being allowed underground. The chamber was heated by steam 
pipes to a temperature of ninety-six degrees, and the test consisted 
of shoveling rock in this inferno for a total period of sixty minutes. 
Those who survived the ordeal were allowed to continue with it 
in the mine. 

As you set off along the slushy, crag-enclosed tunnels, you see 
their black bodies gleaming as they push and tug, pull and carry, 
haul and hammer the heavy gray rock. Their arms and legs are 
strong and muscular; as they work they look like figures carved 
by an admiring sculptor in sweating bronze. 

You slip and squelch in the slime underfoot. There is no light 
now save that uncertain flicker of the carbide lamp you hold. On 
and on run the tunnels through the earth, threading their tortuous 
way through rocks which had lain untouched for thousands of 
years before the detonator and the dynamite came to shatter them. 
On and on they run, searching out the spotted reef which spells 
gold. And when it is found, it is found only to be destroyed, to 
be blasted out and carried away, leaving an empty jagged slit, 
which has, ironically enough, to be banked up now with the sup- 
port of stones and timber. Like a stuffed animal, the life is 
gone, but the form is made to remain. 

Your feet are heavy and wearisome as you drag them along 
through this rocky tube of heat and wet Your eyes are dimmed 
and swimming with splashing perspiration. Your hair hangs 
horridly in sticky wet cords. The curving sides of the tunnel arc 
sharp points of granite, glistening with dripping water like a 
saliva-ed mouthful of shark's teeth. The brittle rock is ground to 
an edge which cuts easily through the skin and flesh of uncareful 
bodies. 

On the left, now, you come to a break in the surface of the tun- 
nel. It is a gaping hole slanting down away from you, away into 
the blackness. It is a stope. There are men working down there. 
You hear the piercing hiss of the jackhammer as it gnaws its way 
in a neat round hole into the rock. Those holes will be plugged 
with gelignite^ and at four o'clock this afternoon a native boy will 

[279] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

run the hurdle with a burning taper, with which he will light the 
fuses. He will move quickly. There is no time to dawdle when 
blasting-powder has been lighted. As he runs from one fuse to 
another with his burning taper, the "lighting-up boy" will shout 
a warning to all those who may be near. When the last plug has 
been set alight, and when, a second after, the torch-bearer has re- 
gained the safety of some sheltered place, the thunderclap of a 
hundred explosions will break in the heart of the mine. The walls 
which were this morning so obstinately solid will shiver and dance. 
The rock will come crashing down in an awful avalanche, filling 
the stopes and drives with flying stones and hurtling boulders. 
The granite earth will be a shaking, falling place of destruction 
and disintegration. Then it will be quiet. All the spewed-up rock 
will be left in its choking untidiness for the next shift to cart away 
to the surface, where it will be crushed into gold. 

You see the men now- at the bottom of the stope drilling the 
powder-holes. The outlines of their bodies are gloomy, shivering 
silhouettes in a haze of yellow dust. The jackhammer screeches 
its way through the Reef, spitting back clouds of ground and 
powdered granite. The men at work clutch tight their vicious, 
kicking instrument. It makes their strong bodies tremble and 
shiver with its force. But they are fortunate, for at least they can 
stand up to their job. The reef which they are prizing open is 
wide enough here to take a man's standing body. He can work 
upright in the hole he has made. It is a comfort denied to many 
another worker on the Rand. 

At Sub-Nigel, on the extreme east of the Rand, a miner has to 
be a working Houdini. The Reef here is extremely rich the 
richest on the fields but it is also extremely narrow. The ore, 
carrying a high content of gold, occurs in shoots in the rock. This 
unusual formation very nearly spelled the doom of a mine which 
is today the most prosperous in the world, for when Sub-Nigel 
first began operations, the geology of the property was regarded 
as unpayable. 

The engineers who were calculating on a continuous sheet of 
Reef were distracted to find that they constantly lost the gold- 

[280] 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

bearing rock and were working in barren ground. Their costs 
were high, their losses heavy. The ground in which they were 
mining was barren, save for occasional pockets of gold. They 
had spent nearly two million pounds to open up the property, 
and an occasional trace of gold could not pay for the firm's 
stationery. 

It was at last mournfully concluded that the Reef did not 
cross the Sub-Nigel property. It was decided to close the mine 
down. Somebody suggested that they should make one last at- 
tempt. After all, it was a pity to lose two million pounds. New 
men set to work to wrestle with the problem of Sub-Nigel. Those 
traces of gold were followed carefully, and the peculiar forma- 
tion of the Reef at this point was discovered. Sub-Nigel today 
makes a profit of well over two million pounds every year. 

But the men who work in this mine are sorry that its formation 
is so unusual. You may see them perhaps preparing to enter a 
stope. It is so narrow that you cannot believe a leg will go in, 
let alone a whole man. The miner sitting on the edge of a slit 
seems to be working out some problem. He is trying to decide 
before he goes in whether he wants to work on his stomach or his 
back. Once he has wedged himself into the fissure, he cannot 
turn round. He cannot move. He cannot sneeze. If he is 
lucky, he will have some eleven or fifteen inches in which to work. 
He must drill the hard rock with a jackhammer. There is no 
place in which to sit or even crouch. He must operate the in- 
strument with his feet. What he is trying to decide now is which 
is the best position in which to spend the day. It is a problem of 
vast importance to him. 

But here, in Robinson Deep, where the Reef is wider, the 
miners are more like men than snakes. They move about the 
bottom of the stope quite freely. They stand up. Sometimes they 
even stretch. 

The dust flying out from under the redhot drill of the jack- 
hammer hurts your eyes and makes your throat dry. You move 
on, along the steaming, sweltering tunnel, following your own 
grotesque evil shadow. The step you have just left behind as a 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

muddy imprint in the slime is already covered up and shrouded in 
a hot darkness. 

There are bits of iron piping, old rusty buckets, and lengths of 
wet timber lying along the side of the tunnel. The carbide in 
your lamps smells like rotten eggs. 

The blood in your body seems to be fighting fiercely for air. 
Your hands are wet. The trousers which were so neat and dashing 
a little while ago cling stickily to your legs. The perspiration 
which slides down your back tickles you, but you don't laugh. 

On and on you go. 

The narrowness of the drive is broadening out now. It swells 
into a great, towering, empty hall of rock. This chamber might 
be a ballroom constructed for some huge Spirit of the Earth. The 
sharp, uneven walls rise above you to a height of about thirty 
feet. The room is seventy-five feet long and fifty feet wide. It has 
been carved out of the world. It is austere, unreal, overbearing. 
There are some workmen clinging perilously to ladders high up 
in the craggy heights* It is they who have fashioned this great hall 
out of the rock with their instruments. They look stupidly incon- 
sequent against the grim, gray walls. Pitifully impotent they ap- 
pear against the weight of rock they have been teasing. They are 
ants at the bottom of an empty jar. They are men caught in a 
cavern six thousand feet in the earth. 

This chamber is going to be a new machinery room. Batteries 
and dynamos and great mammoth winding-drums will be labo- 
riously carried down from the surface and planted here, so that 
men may proceed still lower into the earth. At present the last 
stage in the journey is covered by small two-ton skips. They must 
have bigger cages to travel to the bottom of the mine. The men 
hammer away at the walls. The sound drops to the floor like a 
goblet falling in a banqueting-hall. 

You walk on. 

Round the next corner there is waiting a two-ton skip. It is 
to carry you to the fifty-ninth level. The skip is an open iron tray, 
used normally for the hoisting of rock. It leans flatly against the 
side of the shaft at a dipping angle, for this is an inclined shaft 

[282] 




A runaway skip taken shortly after it had raced up through the earth 
and crashed through the iron framework of the headgear, killing 

many people. 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

sloping down to the bottom at an angle of thirty-three degrees. 
The iron tray is coated with yellow mud; at the far end it is 
covered in, like the toe of a shoe. You clamber in awkwardly and 
slither down. It is like a crude caricature of a toboggan. The 
shaft yawns away in front of you. The steel rope which holds the 
skip quivers close behind you. You feel yourself moving now. 
You are sliding away from that friendly voice which gave the order 
to go. 

Faster. Faster. 

The skip flies down the incline breathlessly. As it approaches 
and passes each level on the way, the comfortable feeling of 
humanity is left behind. Water dripping from the timbered 
frame of the shaft flies stingingly into the open skip. The solitary 
little carbide flame in your lamp goes out. 

Faster. Faster. 

You are crashing down madly into a black unknown. Suppose 
the rope broke now. Suppose a rock or timber pole had fallen 
across the shaft down there ahead of you. 

Faster. Faster. 

Suppose the skip was out of control 

You can see nothing. Your ears are blocked up. You are 
choking with the surfeit of hot black air pressed back against you. 
How far have you come? How much farther must you go? Is 
there no way to stop this hurtling tray? Suppose the rope broke 
now. 

It is never going to stop. 

It can't stop. 

It is out of control. 

How much longer. 

Fifty-fourth level. 

Fifty-fifth level. 

Fifty-sixth, fifty-seventh, fifty-eight . . . 

The skip slows down sickeningly. 

Fifty-ninth level. 

You climb out and stand for a moment among the timber and 
loose iron rails at the bottom of the mine, 

[283] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

You are eighty-five hundred feet from the surface. 

The heat is terrific. It clutches at you in a hungry, vicious way. 
Ha! a new victim. You don't care. There is an oppressive melan- 
choly down here. You don't care about that either. You don't 
care about anything. You want to vomit. 

The temperature of the rock at the fifty-ninth level of Robinson 
Deep is about one hundred and four degrees. The temperature 
of the air is ninety-three degrees. The humidity is one hundred. 
These three factors constitute the greatest problem in deep-level 
mining today. They present an obstacle which has not yet been 
overcome. They threaten the future of mining, for unless some 
method of counteracting the temperature and humidity is found, 
mining development cannot proceed much below eighty-five 
hundred feet on the Rand. 

The more optimistic experts believe that machinery which has 
not yet been designed will make it possible in the future to mine 
at ten thousand feet, and it has been estimated that this extra 
fifteen hundred feet would give an added revenue of two hun- 
dred and eighty million pounds to the Rand. But the increased 
depth remains a theory and a hope, and the reality stops short at 
eighty-five hundred feet. 

There is no lack of gold down here. The Reef is found to be 
just as rich and consistent as it was nearer the surface, and there 
is every indication that it goes on dipping into the earth far below 
the fifty-ninth level. It is sloping away from the tools of man 
into a marsh of heat and wet where no one can follow. It may 
continue indefinitely slanting away into the earth. But there 
is no one to fetch it out. There is no man who can fight against 
these extreme conditions. The soaking atmosphere and the heat 
will bring not gold, but heart attacks and collapse. 

All the brains on the Rand and these are many today are 
striving to overcome this barrier of nature. One mine thought 
of sending ice down their shafts, until it was found by experiment 
that if every skip and cage carried nothing but tons of ice into 
the workings all day long, the effect on heat conditions would 
be almost negligible. 

[284] 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

Unless, then, some machinery can be devised to solve this, the 
greatest mining problem on the Rand today, development cannot 
go on. Progress must be thwarted. The rich reef of gold will have 
to be abandoned. It must be left in the ground where it was first 
found. 

The Robinson Deep Company have just installed an air- 
conditioning plant, the effects of which are being eagerly awaited 
by the entire mining world. This machine, which cost more than 
one hundred thousand pounds to install, should prove whether or 
not it is possible to work lower than eight thousand or nine thou- 
sand feet. It is designed to reduce the entire volume of air entering 
one shaft that is, five hundred thousand cubic feet of air a 
minute to a condition slightly above freezing. It will pour 
cold dry air into the mine day and night throughout the year, 
absorbing heat and moisture as it courses through the workings. 
The claims or ambitions of this plant are not spectacular. It is 
hoped that the system will set back the most active workings in 
Robinson Deep (which arc in the region of seventy-five hun- 
dred feet) to the temperature conditions prevailing at six thou- 
sand feet In other words, the mine in respect of temperatures 
should be made relatively fifteen hundred feet shallower. As 
every thousand feet in depth represents five years of life to a 
mine, this mechanical "shortening" will, it is hoped, add seven 
and a half years to the life of the mine. 

With the new machinery on Robinson Deep the air is drawn 
through an air-conditioning chamber, where, in contact with 
dense sprays of cold brine, it is reduced in temperature to thirty- 
five degrees. The reduction in temperature causes the conden- 
sation of excess humidity, and it is estimated that on an extreme 
summer day during the rainy season the extraction of moisture 
from the air will amount to some twelve hundred gallons an hour. 

Had not the abandonment of the gold standard proved so 
profitable to gold mining in South Africa, development schemes 
such as this would never have been economically possible. As 
it is, mining houses on the Rand are taking full advantage of 
their profits to reorganize and improve their properties and to 

[285] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

chase the fleeting gold reef with all the forces of big capital. 
The chase will continue, and the hare of heat will be hunted by 
the hounds of ingenuity and money until the cost of the sport 
makes the victory no longer worth it until expenditure exceeds 
revenue, or until the hounds make their kill. 

All about you, as you stand down here at the deepest point 
of the world's deepest mine, is this sense of struggle. At the 
moment it is uneven. The heat is winning. There is an ap- 
pearance of dispirited attempt. 

Loose stones and rubble lie uselessly at your feet in the in- 
evitable slush. Two men stand looking at the rock as though 
they had never seen it before. There seems nobody else about. 
It is very quiet. A single narrow tunnel runs wretchedly away. 
Some timber is propped up lazily against a jagged wall The 
usual activity is missing. It is too hot. They have blasted their 
way down here a mile and a half below the ground. Now they 
stand with drooping shoulders, wondering, perhaps; perhaps 
not thinking at all. It is too hot. You move forward like an 
automaton. You haul your unwilling body through the dank 
unfinished drive. 

The blood pounds against your temples. The perspiration, 
which had, at first, dripped from your forehead slowly, almost 
rhythmically, now begins to splash away hurriedly. It is difficult 
to breathe. The hot wet air beats about your throat in a menacing, 
surly way. Your voice, which left you timidly enough, develops 
into a hollow roar as it swells round the jagged tunnel The 
light from your carbide lamp throws grotesque, dancing figures 
onto the rock around, but it is soon drowned in the thick darkness 
a few feet away. Water drips from the craggy arch over your 
head, leaving a glistening surface of stone and slate. Underfoot 
the ground is slushy and slippery. The perspiration courses down 
your body in streams. 

You feel trapped down here, and slowly your mind begins to 
appreciate the horror of entombment. In front of you stretches 
a long narrow tunnel which has been blasted out of the rock. 
It winds its way through the earth for some distance, and then 

[286] 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

stops. The only way to escape is to retrace your steps through the 
slush and mud, squeezing your way past boulders and along sharp, 
razor-like wails. On and on through the dark, struggling to make 
your legs obey your tired will; on and on, while your overheated 
brain imagines a fall of rock just ahead, imagines the crack, the 
roar of falling stone, the dust flying, the darkness thicker and more 
solid than any darkness you have ever known. 

There was a crack sounding like the report of a near-by pistol. 
Then a heavy, tearing, grinding roar. The earth shook violently. 
The stolid rock of drive and tunnel, of stope and winze, trembled 
the full length of their crawling, winding way. The slimy ground 
underfoot moved about smoothly and uncontrollably like a sliding 
glacier. The hanging rock of ceiling quivered and danced, urging 
the sidcwalls into the same uneven, hysterical motion* The 
rumble of earthquake muttered and moaned its way through dark 
underground caverns. 

Every light in the mine went out. 

A fall of rock. 

From the sound and the motion, it was a heavy fall. On the 
fif ty-first level. Six thousand feet below the surface. The men in 
the mine dropped their tools and stood waiting. All around 
them the earth heaved restlessly, and they, not moving, were 
moved in this tilting, shivering, underground world like men 
standing motionless on a mechanical jumping floor. 

It was pitch dark. 

They waited. 

Above them, between them and liberty, were six thousand feet 
of holed and burrowed rock, dancing uncertainly. Below them 
more than two thousand feet of earth shivered and shook away 
into the heart of the mine. They waited. They waited either for 
obliteration or stillness. They moved no more than the earth itself 
moved. The tons of granite above them, so strong, so heavy, so 
unresisting, could fall now as willingly as hail as destructively 
as hail raining into an orchard of peach blossom. They waited 
for the first sting of an approaching doom, for the first flying 

[387] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

rock to dislodge itself from that heaving canopy of granite, to 
fall unnoticed at their feet, while all the tons surrounding them 
came crashing down in a deluge of disaster. 

They waited quietly in the black heart of the mine for the 
second fall of rock. 

The shaking, stuttering earth grew calmer. The gibbering rock 
grew quieter. The rumble and roar of disintegration faded out 
into a malevolent mutter. The hoped-for stillness came. There 
was no second fall. Then the men who had waited rigidly for 
the promise of death to be kept or broken moved quickly in the 
quiet tunnels. There had been a heavy fall somewhere on the 
forty-first level. They must find out where it was. They must 
discover if anyone had been trapped by the bursting rock. The 
dark drives were alive now with hurrying movement. Lamps 
hastily lighted punctured the blackness with little points of yellow 
light. Voices echoed strangely as the rapid shouts of inquiry 
reverberated through the dust-filled passages. 

Men but newly released from the threat of entombment hurried 
forward anxiously to find the place where disaster had struck. 
As they moved along the drives, they were led in their quest by 
the clues of destruction which now lay scattered round about. 
The iron cocopan rails had been buckled up here into a pitiful 
switchback. The heavy timber props supporting the sides of the 
drives had been crushed and flung aside by the ruthless power of 
the rock. Stone packs had been tossed about onto the footwalls 
or floors. Great boulders dislodged from the solidity of the sides 
lay sharply across the way, marking the route to the rockf all like 
skeletons leading to a cave. 

And there, at the far end of the drive, where an hour ago, ten 
minutes ago, men had been working down the slanting sides of 
a stope, there was nothing but a great mountain of rock. 

A great mountain of rock which plugged the tunnel from hang- 
ing to footwall like a cork. A great quivering mountain of rock 
high as the tunnel itself, broad as its sides, which hid by its huge- 
ness the vast gaping places from which it had come. A great 
mountain of rock, which in its own excess, had spilled into the 

[288] 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

mouth of the stope, choking it up, surrounding it, smothering it, 
defacing, obliterating. 

There were sixteen men trapped in the stope, pinioned behind 
that tonnage, caught by the crash of the falling mountain, en- 
tombed. Sixteen men. Native men. An hour ago they were 
underlings, black servants, units in a big machine. Now, in this 
time of horror and distress, they were comrades, unlucky fellow 
workers trapped in their jobs, needing the assistance and the help 
of their white masters. 

Already on the surface, where the rock-burst had shaken the 
foundations of the mine offices like a sharp earthquake already 
rescue teams were being hurriedly assembled. There was no 
lack of volunteers. Never in the history of Rand mining have 
men hesitated to offer themselves as helpers in a cause which even 
now is fraught with danger. Disaster in a mine makes brave men 
of its workers. They were streaming down the shafts now in 
cages and skips to the fifty-first level. They carried hammers and 
chisels and crowbars. They hurried in silence along the gloomy 
drives. 

The air was thick with the falling dust of the rock-burst. All 
the mine was quiet and still, save in that one place where the great 
mountain of rock had hurled itself outward. Here, on the 
threshold of this newly made tomb, the danger was yet alive and 
real. 

The mine was talking. 

The rocks crowding up gradually to the piled barrier were still 
quivering; the dust was flying out in great yellow clouds. The 
granite hanging over the awful disorder was hummocked and 
hillocky, showing deep black valleys where boulders had fallen 
away, and dark fissures which spoke of past force and future 
power. All the time now the rock hanging round the fallen mass 
cracked and spat and mumbled. It talked of the glory of destruc- 
tion and of the ecstasy of revolt. It talked in threats, promising 
more mutilation and another holocaust. It quivered and shook 
warningly. It cracked over the rescuer's head as sharp evidence 
of danger. It waited for one false footstep, one arm brushing care- 

[289] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

lessly against a jutting crag, one shoulder bumping accidentally 
against those flimsily balanced boulders. It talked of another 
rockf all. An imminent one. 

The great mountain of rock blocking up the stope stretched 
forward along the drive to meet the rescue team. They marched 
on in single file, picking their way delicately through the dis- 
ordered tunnel, not daring to talk, hardly daring to breathe, lest 
the vibration should bring the whole mass of rock crashing down 
on them. As they drew nearer the fallen mountain, they stopped. 
The walls quivered all around, like a bloodhound scenting its 
victim. It was foolhardy to go on. They could never reach the 
stope through this huge mountain of restive rock. Foolhardy and 
criminal, for if they themselves were trapped here by a further 
fall, their entombment would not only destroy the chance of 
saving those other sixteen men, but would also involve another 
rescue team in more danger. 

They turned back slowly and retraced their steps along the drive. 
But they did not return to the surface. They went still farther 
down the mine to the fifty-second level. When they reached a 
spot approximately underneath the buried stope, they halted, 
stripped themselves to the waist^ and began to pick away at the 
solid rock above them in an attempt to hole through to the en- 
tombed men. They did not dare use blasting powder, for such an 
explosion would shatter the trapped bodies lying above, and would 
bring the trembling rock down in an avalanche of granite. 

They had to chip their way through, using their bodies and 
their hands and sharp-pointed lengths of iron. The men of the 
rescue team worked in relays. First one man would pick away 
at the solid face of the rock until he was exhausted. Then he 
would fall back to the end of the line while the next man would 
take up his place. It was necessary to economize in space. The 
tunnel they were making must be as narrow as possible to save 
energy and time. They must hurry, hurry, upward to the sixteen 
trapped natives. The sound of chipping and hammering was 
broken only for a moment when new men moved forward. The 
narrow hand-made tunnel began slowly to stretch upward 

[290] 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

through the hard rock. It was only eighteen inches in width. 

Ten feet long. 

Twenty feet long. Fifty, seventy, a hundred* 

The hours moved by. A day passed into night and was born 
again in dawn. 

The chipping and hammering continued. 

Exhausted men wormed their way back through the tunnel to 
sit white and shaking on the side of the drive while their com- 
rades carried on. A hundred feet. A hundred and twenty, a 
hundred and fifty feet upward, upward, stretching thinly up- 
ward to the entombed men. 

They must hurry, hurry, hurry. 

Thirty-six hours. Forty-five hours. Fifty-five hours. Sixty 
hours. Hurry, hurry, hurry. 

There were lives to be saved, even now, perhaps. Time was life. 

The tunnel moved up. Two hundred feet. 

The heat was unendurable. Six thousand feet below the sur- 
face, and there was no ventilation in that hastily hacked tunnel. 
The rescuers hammered and chiseled. They could not stand it 
long now in this tight, hot tube. Half an hour, perhaps. Then 
they dropped out into the drive, sick and shaking, to collapse a 
minute after and be dragged away to recover. New men struggled 
forward. Hurry, they must hurry. Seventy hours. Another day 
almost. Could there be any life left in that tomb above? Two 
hundred and forty feet. And then the hard rock ended, and the 
sound that the crowbar made became hollow. 

The rescue team had holed its way into the mass of boulders that 
lay on the bottom of the stope. The boulders must be moved or 
circumvented somehow, before the entombed men could be 
reached. The stench of decomposing flesh was nauseating now. 
The torn and decaying bodies lying in the stope sent up a screen 
of overpowering fumes. The rescuers tied blocks of camphor 
under their noses, and sprayed verbena oil around them as they 
moved forward. They vomited and retched Violently with the 
stench. 

Hurry, 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

Seventy-two hours. . . . 

They saved seven of the natives. When the rescue team found 
them they showed the courage that has now come to be associated 
with natives. They were lying flat on their backs, pinned down 
by the fallen rock, unable to move hand or foot, unable to turn 
their heads, able only to move their eyes. They had lain like this 
for seventy-two hours while the bodies of their comrades rotted 
away in the throttled, unventilated hole. 

It was part of the game of mining. One of the natives who was 
taken out of the stope alive but injured reported back for work 
next morning. 

On the fifty-first level of Robinson Deep. 

May. 1932. 

Rock-bursts occur frequently on the Rand. They bring in their 
wake a trail of death and injury; they are feared not only by the 
workers blasting their way through the thickness of the mine, 
but also by the engineers and scientists sitting in offices on the 
surface; for even after the most thorough investigations and the 
most expert deliberation, the source of these bursts or falls can 
never be exactly anticipated. 

The sudden bursting of the rock is caused by the removal of 
the Reef over large areas, and this throws the weight of the over- 
lying mass of rock onto the unexcavated portions that is, onto 
the walls and floors of the levels below. When the depth reaches 
one thousand feet or more, such supports are unable to bear the 
huge weight above, and are relentlessly crushed down until the 
rock bursts out, without warning, at any time or any place. 

Sometimes small bursts occur, and then a single piece of stone 
will fly out from the wall with such terrific force that it will kill 
any man standing in the line of flight. When a heavy fall occurs, 
hundreds of tons of rock are dislodged, and the weight of falling 
granite, with its force of impact, rocks not only the mine itself, but 
the whole town of Johannesburg for miles around. 

There is no question of negligence attaching to a rock-burst. It 
is something uncontrollable, and, up to now, unavoidable. A fall 

[292] 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

may occur on any level in any mine. It cannot be foreseen. It 
cannot be forestalled. Its coming can only be dreaded. The best 
that mining men can do is to support the rock, and prop it up 
with timber packs and stone wedges in order to prevent the over- 
lying weight from crushing down too quickly. In every mine these 
heavy timber or cement packs may be seen squeezed to a pulp 
by the settling rock; but though they may retard movement, they 
cannot prevent it altogether, and rock-bursts continue to shake the 
Rand. 

The mining houses, very naturally, greatly dislike and regret the 
loss of life underground. Every possible precaution is taken in all 
mines to prevent accidents. Safety-first classes are given, instruc- 
tive papers are issued, notices of warning and reminders are pasted 
up all over the workings. 

The mining authorities do not view accidents lightly, and an 
official inquiry is held into the cause of each mishap. If there is 
any question of negligence or culpability involving death or 
injury, a legal charge is framed, and the case is heard in the courts 
of law. 

However, despite the most careful efforts made to prevent ac- 
cidents, statistics for 1934 showed that no less than 610 men were 
killed and 11,631 injured in the mines and this was an improved 
accident rate compared with preceding years. 

Such casualties are not confined to any one section of the Rand, 
nor are they caused by rock-bursts alone. From Sub-Nigel on the 
east to Randf ontein on the west, each and every mine has its death- 
days. It might be a fall of rock; it might be a skip crash or a run- 
away cage; it might be fire or flood. 

There was fire at Langlaagte. It was an unusual occurrence, 
for fire in the rocky water-sprayed mines of the Rand is rare. It 
broke out four thousand feet below the surface, and five of the 
senior officials of the property, including the manager, went to 
investigate. It could not be serious. They did not bother to take 
gas masks. But underground the timber smoldered and flamed 
in the still limited air, and the fumes were deadly. One by one the 
officials collapsed. All of them died in the heart of their mine. 

[293] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

At Sub-Nigel there was a skip crash. It is, alas! not a rare 
accident. A hoist rope breaks; a cage is over-wound. There are 
a few more numbers to swell the annual death-rate. On this par- 
ticular day in Sub-Nigel the skip was traveling to the surface 
carrying fifteen natives. On reaching the surface landing it failed 
to stop. It raced on at full speed, high above into the iron frame- 
work of the headgear. 

So great was the force of the impact that four of the men were 
flung clear of the headgear, and were hurled thirty feet to the 
ground. They were killed instantly. The other eleven natives in 
the skip were tipped over onto a rock bin below, falling head-first 
in a sprawling mass onto the jagged rock. Four were killed out- 
right. The rest lay groaning until help arrived. One old native 
had both his legs broken near the thighs, and was badly injured 
about the face and head. 

"Don't worry, baas," he told the kindly official. "My legs are 
broken, and I have other hurts, but I think my body is all right." 

But his body was not all right. This brave old man died later 
in hospital from shock. 

When the hoist-rope broke at Durban Roodepoort Deep, the 
cage plunged three thousand feet down the shaft onto another 
cage waiting below. The runaway iron cage scattered in frag- 
ments in its headlong flight down the shaft, and burst through 
the walls of the cage below on to the miners inside. There were 
thirty men in the bottom cage waiting to be hauled to the surface. 
They heard a terrific roar, clouds of dust and lengths of timber 
came sweeping down, and then the plunging cage burst onto 
them. 

After that it was dark. Four of them were killed. Seven were 
injured. 

But the most tragic accident of all happened in 1934 at the East 
Rand Proprietary Mine. Two natives were entombed by a fall of 
rock on the thirty-seventh level. A rescue team consisting of 
five highly placed officials and four miners went immediately to 
the aid of the buried men. The conditions in the accident area 
were very dangerous. The rock cracked and split around them 

[294] 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

as they worked, and muttered darkly of pent-up power. After 
forty minutes the rescue team succeeded in extricating one body. 
The other native was dead, too; but mining regulations provide 
that all bodies must be brought to the surface immediately, and 
the rescuers pushed on in the rumbling, creaking rock. They had 
reached a point from where it was possible to see the buried na- 
tive, when there was a loud sharp report, and a pressure burst 
blew out the floor and ceiling of the drive, burying the entire 
rescue party under tons of falling rock. Eleven bodies were later 
recovered by another band of volunteers. 

And at the New Machavie Mine there was the tragedy of flood. 

It was three o'clock in the afternoon, and they were blasting 
in a stope which adjoined the old workings of the mine. By ac- 
cident the blasting holed into an old disused shaft full of water. 
The mine was flooded and forty-six men were trapped. 

James Brotherton was walking up to the tenth level when Tie 
heard an unusual noise following blasting. He wondered what it 
could be, and then almost immediately he knew. Torrents of 
water came pouring down into the level from above. For one 
second he stood aghast, and then, pushing his way through the 
oncoming water, he struggled into the drive, and managed to 
catch hold of some timber. It gave immediately, and he was 
washed down. 

Following close on his heels was a young boy a learner named 
Leslie Roberts who was on his first shift. Together the two 
men were washed down the drive in a sea of black, foul-smelling 
water. Brotherton clutched madly at the walls trying to get a hold, 
but he was swept onward down the dark tunnel. Both men were 
now completely under water. At last Brotherton managed to 
grasp a piece of jutting rock, and young Roberts caught him 
round the waist as the water swept him on. 

There they hung; two men clinging desperately to life at the 
bottom of a mine. 

The water was icy cold, and as it rushed past them it tore the 
clothing off their backs, leaving their blue shivering bodies naked. 
Brotherton hung on to the rock until his hands were numb and 

[295] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

his arms senseless. Roberts clung round his waist, unable to touch 
the ground with his feet. For an hour they dangled like this in 
the swirling water, unable to see each other. And then Roberts 
spoke. 

"I can't stick it any longer," he said. 

But Brotherton urged him to try to hold on just a little longer. 
He spoke to the young learner encouragingly, kindly. It was the 
poor kid's first day down a mine. He told him that the rescue 
party would soon be here. He had not much hope, but he tried 
to sound convincing. 

There was silence, and a moment after Brotherton was conscious 
that he was gone. He had slipped away into the dark water. 
For a little while he hung on alone, and then, almost exhausted, 
he struggled forward, feeling for the tram-lines with his hands 
and dragging himself along them with his body completely sub- 
merged. He was certain now that the rescue team could never 
find him in these black, flooded tunnels. 

He must keep alive. It was his only hope. He must keep alive. 
And he spoke aloud to himself. 

"I can't stick it any longer," he said. 

Just then he saw a light. It was a member of the rescue gang, 
waist deep in water, who had come to look for him. 

Although Brotherton was completely exhausted, he insisted on 
going back to look for Roberts. The water had subsided by this 
time. It was only four feet deep, but it was still moving at the 
rate of about thirty miles an hour. Together the two men fought 
against it. They struggled along the northern section of the mine 
in the hope of finding Roberts. But he was not there. They 
went still farther down, and then they found Roberts. His body 
was stuck against the tram rails, and he was dead. 

In the meantime rescue parties were searching feverishly for 
the other forty-four men. For three and a half days they worked 
in the water-logged earth searching in the gloom of the mine for 
bodies, but they found no one. 

At two o'clock in the afternoon of the fourth day a dramatic 
message was rushed up the shaft to the anxious people waiting at 
the surface. 

[296] 



AT THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH 

"Anderson is alive, and two natives," it said. "We have found 
them in a box-hole on the flooded fourteenth level, but the im- 
prisoned air has kept the water back. We have not come across 
any dead bodies so far." 

Anderson, on the first sign of danger, had climbed into a box- 
hole above the fifteenth level, where the water had almost reached 
the roof. After he had been rescued he told the story of his ex- 
perience himself. 

"I never quite lost control of myself," he said, "although at 
times I was screaming and praying with the natives. I could hear 
the thud of the pumps, and I knew that my comrades were work- 
ing incessantly to get to our relief. It was bitterly cold, especially 
at night, and it was only by the rise and fall of temperature that I 
knew night from day. 

"I had no matches, and although I could just distinguish the 
figures on my luminous watch-face, I could not see the hands. By 
Saturday morning I was beginning to get mixed up as to the time, 
but I knew it was either Friday or Saturday. 

"I was getting very thirsty, and so were the natives, I broke off 
pieces of a cigarette I had in a tin box and gave some to the native 
witb me, so that we could chew, and thus moisten our mouths. 
I war. afraid to drink from the water beneath us, because I knew 
that it would be rank poison, having been held up in the old mine 
workings for over twenty years. 

"We just waited and listened, and listened and waited. The 
native with me was getting weaker and more depressed. He 
warned to slip down into the water and take his chance either of 
getting through or dying. He complained all the time of cold, 
add I had to keep rubbing him day and night. 

"On the last day, when I heard the pumping getting closer and 
closer, I had every hope that everything would be all right. I 
knew that they were getting to the fifteenth level, and I kept 
telling Tandani, the native in my box-hole, and shouting to the 
native in the adjoining raise that the bosses would soon be there 
and that they would be safe. 

"Tandani was very quiet. He said he wanted to die, but at 
intervals he shouted and screamed madly. 

F2Q71 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

"The rescue sounds drew closer and closer. I told the two 
natives to keep on shouting so that the rescuers might know in 
which direction to look for us. Then I seemed to hear the move- 
ments of people, and I told the natives to keep quiet so that I could 
be sure, but they kept on screaming and I could not make myself 
heard. Eventually I saw the gleam of an approaching light, and 
by the reflection I saw that the water in the haulage was dropping. 
I knew now that it would be all right. Sounds were coming 
from the drive, and the lights came nearer. Then I heard the 
voices of the rescuers. The native in the next raise shouted, 
'Hullo, boss/ and I leaned down and put my arms around the 
neck of one of them." 

At the New Machavie Mine, in bitterly cold and rainy weather, 
the bodies of thirty-nine men were buried in graves on a little 
hillside in the shadow of the headgear. 

And so it goes on, year after year. Men work and sweat in the 
earth; they live and die to make gold. 

Last year they crushed more than forty million tons of rock on 
the Witwatersrand. Next year they will crush more. Perhaps 
somewhere at the bottom of these mines they will find the bones 
of a human arm or leg left behind when a body was being pulled 
from under the weight of a fallen mountain of rock. 

No matter. Work must go on, for this is the greatest gold- 
mining industry in the world. 

This is the story of gold. 



EPILOGUE 

THE GREAT GOLD-BEAIUNG REEF OF THE WTTWATERSRAND WAS DIS- 

covered fifty years ago, in 1886. 

Eleven hundred years before the birth of Christ a nation of men 
were taking gold out of African ground. They were mining 
where Rhodesia now stands, and in the Transvaal. They extracted 
tin and copper in vast quantities from ground which is now built 
over in neat suburban squares, or is left open for cows and sheep 
to graze upon. 

They took more than seventy-five million pounds' worth of gold 
out of the African earth. 

These people have vanished, leaving no trace of their identity 
save the age-old ruins of a lost nation the crumbling stones of 
majestic fortresses, the decaying foundations of former citadels, 
the choked-up workings of abandoned mines. 

Here they worked in Africa more than three thousand years 
ago, following skillfully the belts and veins of metal, using their 
simple instruments and their hands to bring the mineral wealth 
up out of the earth and to carry it away. Away. Whither away? 
All round about the rich Reef of the Witwatersrand they toiled 
for tin and copper and gold; but they did not find the richest vein 
of all. 

They missed the Rand. 

Then in the drowning seas of time they disappeared and were 
lost. They live now only by the mossy stones which once stood 
high in temples and fortresses; in the broken bowls, the battered 
ornaments, the fragmentary relics of their past vitality; in the 
holes and subterranean passages blocked up now with the dust 
and weeds of centuries. They live only by the shadow of their 
own skeleton. 

They are a lost and vanished nation. 

Some say that the land of Southern Africa from which these 

[299] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

people took their gold was the Scriptural land of Ophir, and that 
the workers were the Sabaeo-Arabians who supplied the merchants 
of Sheba with the precious metal. Hiram, who voyaged from 
Tyre to fetch King Solomon's gold, was away three years. It is 
said he sailed to Sofala, on the coast of Africa, where he loaded 
four hundred twenty talents of gold that is, four or five million 
pounds sterling. The slaves brought by Hiram to King Solomon 
came with the same shipment as the gold and ivory. 

"And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that 
had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. 

"And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, 
four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to King 
Solomon. . . . 

"And she [the Queen of Sheba] gave the king an hundred 
and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and 
precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices 
as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon. 

"And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from 
Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, 
and precious stones. . . . 

"And all king Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and 
all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of 
pure gold; none were of silver; it was nothing accounted of 
in the days of Solomon, 

"For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy 
of Hiram; once in three years came the navy of Tharshish 
bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks." 
So say the Scriptures. 

And the story is filled in and continued by investigators, 
scientists, archaeologists and historians. They say that in the 
course of time the great power of the Sabaeo-Arabians waned until, 
not by conquest, but by natural absorption, the Phoenicians be- 
came masters of the Mediterranean and northern seas, of the 
Indian Ocean, and the colonies that the Sabaeo-Arabians had 
planted. Then the trade and wealth for which the Sabaeans had 
been famous passed into the hands of the Phoenicians, and they, 



EPILOGUE^ 

now the leading merchants, navigators, miners and metallurgists 
of that half-forgotten world, occupied the country of Southern 
Africa. 

Here they added to the building of temples and forts which had 
been constructed earlier by the Sabaeans, and they built the great 
walls of Zimbabwe. They had come to Africa for gold, and they 
must have protection. So their forts were massive buildings 
with walls sometimes fif teen feet broad, and they took many years 
to construct. One generation passed into another generation, and 
yet another generation, before all these forts were finished. 

The gold-seekers of these ancient times were skillful metallur- 
gists, and they picked out rich shoots and patches and pockets with 
marvelous cleverness. They were slaves working for their im- 
perial masters without hire or reward, and thus it was possible 
to mine the low-grade ore which today is barely payable. Forced 
labor gave them their profits in those dim, far-off days, and the 
slaves toiled and sweated, and at night slept in great pits. 

They cracked the hard face of the rock by stoking up great fires 
against the granite surface, and then, when the rock was white 
with heat, they threw cold water on it, splitting open the surface 
amid great clouds of steam. They crushed the rock with stones 
and washed it in rivers. The gold dust was stored in the district 
forts protecting the workings, until a sufficient quantity had been 
accumulated. Then it would be carried to one or other of the 
capital towns to be smelted, and afterward the fine gold would 
be sent to the metropolis at Zimbabwe, where it would be kept 
until some caravan set out for Sof ala. 

The centuries passed, and Southern Africa was busy with the 
work of the gold-seekers. 

Then one day they disappeared: they vanished completely, leav- 
ing nothing but buildings and tools, half-finished jobs and for- 
gotten possessions. 

Why did they leave so hurriedly ? Why did they abandon their 
still-rich workings? Why did they disappear so abruptly from 
the citadels in which they lived for centuries? History is not 
certain. Some say that they had worked down to water in their 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 

mines, and this prevented further development, as they did not 
know the hydraulic pump. 

Some say that the refractory character of the ore at lower levels 
made mining with primitive tools impossible. Perhaps the mines 
were abandoned because the grade of ore was not high enough, 
and yet there are evidences that the ancients worked very low- 
grade rock. Perhaps they were ignorant of deep-level mining. 

But the most widely held theory of all is that the great hordes 
of savage cannibal natives rose against these foreign miners, driv- 
ing them to their metropolis at Zimbabwe, where they made a 
last desperate stand before being chased from the country. 

And so they vanished completely. 

But was this disappearance final? 

There are natives in Africa today whose features link them 
closely with the lost nation which once inhabited their country. 
The Makalanga tribe stands as human testimony to the faded 
history of the past In appearance this tribe differs from the 
ordinary native. The men bear a Semitic cast of feature, with the 
arched nose of the early Sabaean, and mentally they are more 
advanced than any other tribe in the Eastern and Central terri- 
tories of Africa. Their commercial instincts and shrewdness are 
notable characteristics, and the Matabele man receiving his wages 
will appeal to a Makalanga to check the amount for him. These 
and other traits point to the theory that the ancient gold-seekers 
who lived in Southern Africa throughout many centuries moved 
among the aborigines and bred from them a race which, although 
it has forgotten the story of the ancient gold-seekers, bears about 
its features a silent tale of the shrouded past. 

Zimbabwe has given place to Johannesburg, 

The dust of one great gold city has given rise to the bricks and 
mortar of another. The ancient slaves toiling and sweating in 
the earth in those dark days were the indirect ancestors of the 
miners crushing and drilling even now under the crust of the 
Rand. The gold which was once used to glorify the palace of 
King Solomon is now packed and shipped to the dank vaults of 
the Bank of England. Johannesburg is no busier, with its crowded 

[302] 



EPILOGUE 

streets and tall buildings, than that thriving, hustling metropolis 
of a forgotten age. 

The Witwatersrand is the greatest goldfield in the world. It 
has collected a nation of people round its rich reef. It has built 
towns, and made a golden trail across the world. 

But it has all happened before. Perhaps when the Rand is 
exhausted some future race of explorers will examine with 
magnifying-glasses and microscopes what is Crown Mines and 
Robinson Deep today. Perhaps a thousand years from now they 
will peer eagerly into the faces of some native tribe, searching for 
a link with the lost nation of the twentieth century. 

Perhaps, after all, we are not so clever as we thought, for it has 
all been done before. 

The search for the yellow metal is no new thing. 

The search for gold is the very history of the world. 

THE END 



[303] 



INDEX 



INDEX 



Afrikanders, 181 

Aldgatc, 91, 93, 192 

AH Baba, 221-222 

Aliens Expulsion Law, 124 

Allies, the, 183 

Amalgamated Society of Engineers, 170 

America 

interest in South Africa, 196 
Amsterdam, 80 
Anderson, 297 
Anglian, 91 

Anglo- American Company, 196 
Anglo-Boer War 

fee Boer War 
Aqua Frio, 20 
Argentine, 128 
Armenia, 128 

Ashmead-Bartlctt, Sir Ellis, 122 
Atlantic Ocean, 17 
Atwicl^, the, 17, 20 
Australia, 20, 23, 33, 53, 129 
Austria, 82 

Bailey, Abe, 85, 90 

Baines, Thomas, 32 

Bank of England, 245, 246, 302 

Bantu, 182 

Bapedi tribe, 142 

Baramapulana, 142 

Barberton, 36, 37, 40, 42, 48, 51 

Barnato, Barney, 72, 91-116, 191, 192, 268 

and Kruger, 100-104 

character of, 97-98, 100-106 

early life of, 91-93 
Barnato Brothers, 92, 95, 101, 106 

and blackmail, 106-116 

in London, 92 

Barnato Buildings, 95, 97, HI, 113, 115 
Barnato Diamond-Mining Company, 93 
Basutoland, 58, 59, 61, 67, 147 
Basuto tribe, 63, 146 
Bear's Valley, 20 
Bechuanaland, 33-34, 79 
Bechuanaland Border Police, 114 
Beccham, Sir Thomas, 167 



Beer's Consolidated Mines, de, 93 

Beit, Alfred, 85, 94 

Bells, The, 97 

Benoni, 171, 185 

Bergner, Elizabeth, xiii 

Bible, the, 17, 21, 131, 299-300 

Birmingham, 131 

Blaauwberg, 30 

Black Brian, 58, 60-64 

Block B, 197, 198 

Bloed River, 29 

Bloemfontam, 130, 132 

Bloemfontain Conference, 158 

Blyde River, 138, 139, 140 

Boers, 30, 32, 35, 52, 53-54, 88, 119, 129, 

130* I3L 150* 183 
characteristics of, 20-22, 24-25, 28-29, 

3* 32, 37, 49. 5 53-54* W *93> 

197, 230-233 
Boers versus Britons 

antagonism today, 270 
Boer War, 132, 155 
Bond Street, 178 
Booyscns, 53 

Botha, General Louis, 135, 199 
Brakpan, 186 
Brakpan Mine raid 

climax of revolution, 187-188, 189- 

190 

Brewer, Captain, 17 
Brickfields, the, 55 
British Liberals, 160 
Brodigan, 187 
Brotherton, James, 295-296 
Buffelsdorn Mine, 104-105 
Buhrman, 28-29, 31 
Bulman, 169, 170 
Burgers, Thomas, 34 
Butt and Marcus, Messrs., 202 

California, 17, 20, 33, 53 

gold regions of, 20 
Canada, 20, 23 
Cape Colony, 53, 84, 142, 183, 192 

discovery of diamonds, 35, 79 



[307] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 



Cape Times, the, 214-216 

Capetown, 18, 20, 23, 67, 74 9i> "4 
1 1 6, 212, 218, 246 

Capitalism, 181 

Capone, Al, 167 

Camera, 167, 219 

Central Parliament, 161 

Central Railway Station, 174 

Cetewayo, Chief, 150 

Chamber o Mines, 73, 76, 79, 163, 165, 
172, 179, 180, 181, 183, 185, 238, 
241, 246, 253, 254, 269, 276 

Chamberlain, Joseph, 96, 122, 128, 131, 198 

Charleton, 53 

Chartered Company of Rhodesia, 85 

China, 159-161 

Christie, 198 

City Deep Mine, 278-279 

darcns, 133 

Clifford, 1 06 

Codex Sinaiucus, 267 

Cohen, Lou, 92 

Color Bar, the, 162, 180, 181 

Colville, 139-140 

Commtmism, 181-183, 184 

"Confidence Reef" 
gold discovered on, 38-39, 41 

Cooper, 61, 63 

Corner House, 175 

Cormshmen, 150, 219, 220, 221 

Criminal Investigation Department, 247 

Crocodile River, 30, 31 

Crown Mines, 165-168, 218, 303 

Czech, 85 

Daggafontain Mine, 195, 196, 257 
Dekker, 59 

Delagoa Bay, 80, 101, 102, 136 
Derby, 96 
Derdepoort, 30 
Diamond Jubilee, 90 
Dingaan, Chief, 18, 19, 150 
Dodd and Webb, Messrs., 125 
Dorothea, the, 136-137 
Double Springs, 20 
Downing Street, 198 
Drage, 245 

Dnehoek, 244, 245, 247, 248 
Duncan, Patrick, 258 
Durban, 67, 74, 136 
Durban Roodepoortpeep, 178 
skip crash, 294 



Dutchmen 

see Boers 
Dwars River, 29 

Eagle's Nest, 237 

East Geduld Mine, 257 

East Lynne, 69 

East Rand Proprietary Mine 

double rock-fall, 294-295 
Eckstein, 94 

Edgar versus Forster, case of, 120-121 
Edinburgh, 77 
Eight Hours Bill, 171 
Eioff Street, 243 

England, 33, 41, 53, 74, 82, 85, 96, 101, 
105, 125, 128, 192, 198, 245, 252, 253 

interested in South African problems, 

122-123, 128-132, 196 
European War 

see World War 
Excess Profits Duty, 256, 257, 258, 259 

Fanko, 166 

Farrar, George, 85, 90 

Fascism, 162 

Ferreira, Colonel, 53 

Fitzpatrick, J. P., 119-120 

Forster case, 120-121 

France, 128 

Franchise Law, 126-127 

French Revolution, 186 

Fnttercairn, the, 20 

Geldenhuis Deep, 178 
Geldenhuis, Dirk, 37 
General Staff, 184, 185 
Geneva, 133 
George, Lloyd 

see Lloyd George, David 
Germany, 33, 34, 96, 128, 159 
Germiston, 186 

Germiston Station, 244, 247, 248 
Gibson, Hoot, 167 
God Save the Queen, 85 
Goldfields of South Africa, 84 
Gold Law, the, 102 
Gold Producers' Committee, 252 
Goodyear's Bar, 20 
Government Areas, 195, 257 
Government Gazette ; the, 66 
Great Britain 

sec England 



[308] 



INDEX 



Great Gold Reef 

description of, 222 

discovery of, 42-43, 299 
Great Trek, the, 17, 18, 19, 41 
Great War 

see World War 
Greece, 128 

Greene, Conynghamc, 123 
Grcgorowski, 121 
Griqualand West, 79, 91 

Hammond, John Hays, 84, 90 

Harrison, George, 40-42, 44, 218 

Hart, Benny, 99 

Hertzog, General, 257, 270 

Heugh, Lieutenant, 62-63 

Hewitson, 59 

Hiram, 300 

Hitler, Adolf, 96 

Holland, 25 

Hollard Street, 268, 269 

Hollywood, 167 

Honee Klipberg, 31 

Honeyball, George, 42, 44, 218 

House of Commons, 122, 125, 128, 265 

House of Lords, 210 

Illicit Diamond-Buying, 93 

Illicit Gold-Buying, 229-230, 238-244 

India, 159 

Indian Ocean, 300 

Industrial Commission, 117, 119 

Industrial Disputes Act, 170 

Isaacs, Barnett, 91 

see also Barnato, Barney 
Isaacs, Henry, 91, 92 
Italy, 96, 159, 162 

Jameson, Lcander Starr, 84, 86-88 
Jameson's Raid, 86-90, 102, 104, no, 114, 

117, 128, 198 
Jane Dtxon, the, 20 
Jerusalem, 82 

Joel, Solly, 90, 100, 102, 105, 106-116 
and Government Areas, 196 
and Robinson, 199-209 
Joel, Woolf, 100, 106-116 
Johannesburg, 70, 74, 75, 82, 84, 94, 106, 
,110, 133, 139, 140, 165, 167, 174, 
175, 180, 184, 185, 186, 188, 191, 217, 
' 227, 246, 248, 249, 259, 292 
and London, 267, 268 



Johannesburg continued 

and Zimbabwe, 302 

boom of 1933, 260-262, 285-286 

description of, 265-270 

evacuation of, 77 

foundation of, 54, 55 

growing unrest under Kruger's policies, 
117-132 

growth of, 67-68 

jails in, 56"-58, 60-62 

Jameson's Raid, 86-90 

life in, 55-56, 69, 96 

Market Hall, 97 

nationalities in, 82, 128 

Stock Exchange, 95, 96, 97, 100, 260, 269 
Johannesburg Consolidated Investment 

Company, 175, 199, 200 
Johannesburg Fort, 135 
Jonathan, Chief, 64-66* 
Jones, 125 
Jumpers Company, 146 

Karoo, 17 

Karn-Davies, 90 

Kimberley, 48, 49, 50, 53, 62, 67, 73> 9i 

93, 98, 192 
King Kong, 167 
"Kismet" 

the letters of, 107-109, 109-110, in 
Kleinboy, 39-40, 47 
Kleinfontain Company, 171-172 
Kleinfontain Strike, 169-173 
Klerksdorp, 104 
Klip River, 62 
Kruger, Paul 

see Kruger, Stephanus Paulus 
Kruger, Stephanus Paulus, 17, 30, 53, 54, 
69, 97, 100, no, 197 

and Barnato, 100-104 

character of, 53, 70-71, 75-76, 78-79, 8x, 
83-90, 103, 118, 197-198 

and J. B. Robinson, 197-199 

end of life, 133 

his speech after Jameson's Raid, 89-90 

president of South African Republic, 39 

reduces franchise, 126-127 

the missing Kruger millions, 133-140 

the tragedy of his position, 130-131, 132- 

133 

versus Rhodes, 81-82' 
Krugersdorp, 65, 186 
Krugersdorp Bank, 58, 59-60 



[309] 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 



Ku Klux Klan, 176 
Kurtze 
sec Veltheim, Kurt von 

Labia, Count, 212 
Labia, Countess, 213 
Land Tenure System, 158 
Langerman, John, 201-207 
Langlaagte, 41, 44 *9i 193 

a visit to, 217-226 

fire, 293 

gold discovered, 42-43 

sold to J. B. Robinson, 49-50 
League of Nations, 250 
Lebanon, 300 
Leydsdorp, 139 
Liebig condensers, 234 
Limpopo River, 32 
Lippert, Edward, 72-73 
Lithuania, 82 
Liverpool, 20 
Livingstone, 32 
Lloyd George, David, 210 
London, 92, 97, 114, 115, 123, 198, 201, 

261 

London Times, The t 129 
Lost Gold Reef, 263-264 
Lourenco Marques, 133, 136 
Low-Grade Ore Commission, 252 
Luipaardsvlei, 186 
Luipaardsvlci Estate, 178 
Lys, Captain, 35 
Lys, Godfray, 47 

prospects with Fred Stmben, 35, 36-40, 

41-42 
Lys, Robert, 34 

Ma Ntatisi, 19 

MacArthur, 77 

MacArthur-Forrest process, 77-78, 96 

Machadadorp, 133, 135 

Mafeking, 94 

Magalicsberg, 31 

Makalanga tribe, 302 

Makapaan, Chief, 30 

Makapaanspoort, 30 

Malmaine, 31 

Mama Letshe Moshesh, Chief, 63, 64, 146- 

147 

Mapela, Chief, 30 
Marais, Piet, 17-32, 38 
and Volksraad contract, 26-29, 30-32 



Marais, Pict continued 

discovers gold in Yokskei River, 23-24 

wanderings in Transvaal, 29-32 
Marcus 

see Edgar and Marcus, Messrs. 
Marewu, 166 
Marico, 31 
Marievale Mine, 195 
Mantz, 17 
Market Square, 174 
Marysville, 20 
Matabele Tribe, 18, 302 
Matata, 30 
Matselekaats, 31 
Matthias, 99 
Mauch, Carl, 32, 39 

discovers gold in Bechuanaland, 33*34 
McKeone, John Lewis, 58-67 
McKeone, Martha, 64-66 
Mediterranean Sea, 300 
Melbourne, 20 
Meriposa River, 20 
Meyer, Jan, 53 
Milner, Sir Alfred, 123, 130 
Mine Workers' Union, 179 
Mix, Tom, 164 
Moodie's Camp, 36 
Moselekatse, Chief, 18, 31 
Mozambique, 165 
Mussolini, Benito, 96, 212 

Namaqualand, 31 

Natal, 18, 19, 36, 53, 67, 79, 116, 142, 160 
Native Recruiting Corporation, 165 
Natives Land Act, 161-163 
Nederlandsche Zuid Afrikaanschc Spoor- 

wegmaatschappij, 80 
Negro 

life in mines, 151-155, 163-168 

tribal life of, 141-143, 150, 155 
Negro labor problem, 141, 142, 156 

discipline, 149-152 

effect of Boer War, 15$ 

general strike, 169-190 

modern recruitment, 165 

ruses to obtain native labor, 143-149, 

156-159, 161-163 
Nellmapius, 71-72, 155 
Netherlands Railway Company, 80 
New Goch Gold Mines, 178 
New Machavie Mine 

flood, 295-298 



[310] 



INDEX 



New Modder Mine, 247 

attempted burglary, 247-249 
New State Areas, 257 
New York, 261 

Oak Valley, 20 

Old Masters, 198 

Oliphants River, 33 

Oosthuizen, Widow, 41-42, 44-49, 52, 191, 

193, 217, 226 
Ophir, 300 

Orange Free State, 62, 79, 183, 193, 263 
Orange River, 74 
Othello, 99 
Otto's Hoop, 94, 95 
Owen, 19 

Park Lane, 198, 201 
Paris, 261 
Paul, Oom, 130 
Pegomoa, Chief, 31 
Penguin, the, 136-137 
Peoples' Parliament 

see Volksraad, the 
Perfect Fraud, the, 233-236 
Perth, 114 

Phillips, Lionel, 85, 90 
Phoenicians 

ancient mining activities of, 300-302 
Pierce, 202 
Pitsani, 87 

Plessis, Gert du, 49-50, 193 
Plcssis, Maria du, 50 
Pole, 85 

Potchefstroom, 23, 24, 27, 30, 32, 46, 192 
Potgieter, C., 28 
Potgieter, Hendrik, 17, 18 
Potgicter, Pict, 30 
Press Law, the, 124 

Pretoria, 30, 32, 35, 39, 53 62, 66, 67, 68, 
132, 142, 185 

home of Paul Kruger, 70, 101, 122, 198 
Prctorius, 137-140 
Ptbisis 

see Silicosis 
Public Meetings Act, 125 

Rand, the 

see Witwatersrand 
Rand Club, the, 175 
'Rand Daily Mail, 211-213] 



Randfontain Central, 199-209, 293 

formation of, 178, 206 
Randfontain Estates Gold Mining Company, 

197, 198, 207, 263, 264 
Rand Refinery, 244-246, 247 
Rand Revolution, 183-190, 252 
Recreation Hall, 128 
Red Flag, the, 189-190 
Reef, the 

see Witwatersrand 
Reform Committee, 86, 88, 90, 102, 103, 

104 

Reitz, Colonel, 135, 136 
Reitz, Doctor, 121 
Reticf, Piet, 17, 18-19 
Rhenoster River, 63 

Rhodes, Cecil, 32, 80, 81, 84, 85, 90, 93, 
198 

versus Kruger, 81-82 
Rhodes, Frank, 90 
Rhodesia, 84, 192, 299 
Ridge of the White Waters 

see Witwatersrand 
Roberts, Leslie, 295-296 
Roberts, Lord, 133 
Robinson Bank, 199 
Robinson, Constance, 213 
Robinson Deep, 271-292, 303 

the rock-fall of 1932, 287-292 
Robinson, Florence, 213 
Robinson, Joseph Benjamin, 48, 52, 94, 
100, 218, 228 

and Italy, 211-213 

and knighthood, 209-210 

and Kruger, 197-199 

and Solly Joel, 199-209 

business methods of, 200-207 

buys Langlaagte, 49-50 

character of, 197-198, 214-216 

death of, 210-216 

early life of, 192-193 

his Langlaagte mine, 193 

his testament, 213-214 

the Secret Profits Case, 191-210 
Robinson, Lady, 213 
Robinson, Leonora, 213 
Robinson, Wilfred, 214 
Roman Dutch Law, 102 
Rose-Innes, Sir James, 205 
Rothschild, 52 

"Rotten Reef," 5*, 68, 77 255 
Rule Britannia, 85 



THE GREAT GOLD REEF 



Russia, 82 
Russian Soviet 

influences South African labor, 181-183, 

184 
Rustenburg, 27 

Sabxo-Arabians 
ancient mining activities of, 299-300 

Saint Domingo, 20 

San Francisco, 20 

Sarah Sands, the, 20 

Scholtz, 202 

Scot, the, 105 

Searelle, Luscombe, 69 

Secret Profits Case, 200-2x0 

Shakespeare, 99 

Sheba, 300 

Sikonyela, 19 

Silicosis, 275-276 

Simmer and Jack Mine, 178 

Simonstown, 218 

Smuts, Jan, 122, 181, 184, 186, 270 

Sofala, 300, 301 

Solomon, Arthur, 243 

Solomon, King, 300, 302 

South Africa, 20, 24, 34, 39, 49, 85, 91 
and swindling, 227-249 
controlled by monopolies, 71-76, 78, 117- 

120 

dominated by Boers 
see South Africa, government of 
see also Aliens Expulsion Act 
early settlers of, 17 
first gold rush, 33-34 
formation of Union, 161, 165, 266 
foundation of Republic, 20, 185, 197 
government of, 21-22, 34, 66, 70-76, 

80, 101, 185 

government profit from mines, 256-260 
in a drought year, 78-80 
influence of gold standard, 252-256 
Jameson's Raid, 86-90 
labor problem, 141-168, 169-190 
methods of communication, 93-94 
modern transportation of gold, 245-247 
native resistance, 18-19, 22-23, 3* 142, 

143 
people desire voice in government, 77, 

82-86 

railroads, 80-82 

settlement of, 17-22, 33, 52-53, 142 
transportation in, 74-76, 79-80 



South African Industrial Federation, 178 

South African Law and Order, 183 

South African Mounted Rifles, 188 

South African Party, 181 

Southampton, 91 

Springs, 1 86, 196 

Star, The, 108, 109, no, in, 118-119, 121- 

122, 175 

Strange, Harold, 109, in, 113, 114 
Struben, Fred, 47 
prospects with Godfrey Lys, 35, 36-40, 

41-42 

Struben, Harry, 35, 36-37, 39, 41, 47 
Sub-Nigel Mine, 257, 263, 264, 280-281, 

293 

skip crash, 294 
Suscol Valley, 20 
Swart, Daniel, 137-140 
Swartz, J. P., 135, 136 
Swazi tribe, 142 

Table Bay, 17, 20, 192 

Table Mountain, 17 

Tandam, 297 

Tati, 33 

Temple, Shirley, 192 

Tharshish, 300 

Third International, 181 

Times, The 

see London Times, The 
Toit, Jan du, 49, 204 
Tossel, Sergeant, 60 
Town Hall, 1 80 
Trades Unions, 169-190 
Transvaal, the, 23, 35, 39, 51, 52, 53, 62, 
87, 116, 122, 142, 147, 183, 263, 299 

first gold rush, 33-34 

gold first discovered, 23-24 

second gold rush, 51-53 

topography of, 40 
Transvaal Mounted Police, 62, 63 
Transvaal National Union, 84 
Transvaal Volksraad 

see Volksraad 
Tnechard, 17 
Tshaka, Chief, 150 
Tsikiam, 65 

Turpend, Joseph, 59-67 
Tyre, 300 

Uidanders, 75, 121, 122 
petition to Victoria, 124-125 



INDEX 



Uitvalfontain, 204 
Umkungunklovu, 18-19 
Union Jack, 85 
Union of South Africa, 165, 266 

foundation of, 161 
Uys, 17 

Vaal River, 32, 64 
Vaal, the 

see Transvaal 
Van Niekcrk, 137-140 
Van Ryn Mine 

labor dispute, 173-174 
Vcltheim, Kurt von, 112-116 
Venice, 212 
Victoria Falls, 163 
Victoria Falls Power Station, 183 
Victoria, Queen of England, 68, 90, 91, 

123, 128 
Viljoen, Jan, 31 
Village Deep, 128, 178 
Villiers, Japie de, 49-50, 193 
Vincent, Captain o Royal Reserve, 114 
Volksraad, the, 21-22, 35, 53, 66, 80, 82, 
130* 198 

and the discovery of gold, 24-29, 30-32, 

39 
Vrededorp, 248, 249 

Walker, George, 40-43, 53, 192 
discovers gold reef of Witwatersrand, 42- 
43, 44, 217, 299 

Walker's Reef, 47, 49 

Waterberg Camp, 36 

Waterson, 185 

Waterval, 204, 206, 207 

Waterval Trust Company, 204, 205 

Way, William, 30 

Webb 

see Dodd and Webb, Messrs. 

Wemmer, Sam, 53, 68-69 

Wernher, 94 



Westminster, 122, 129 

Whitechapel, 92 

White, Robert, 88 

White South Africa, 1 8 1, 182, 183 

Wdgesprmt, 37 

Williams, Ralph Charles, 68 

Willoughby, Sir John, 87, 88 

"Willows," the, 35, 36, 37 

Witpoortje Hotel, 60 

Witte Waters Rand 
see Witwatersrand 

Witwatersrand, 24, 29, 33, 3,4, 35, 36, 37, 
40, 41. 49, 52 53, 67-68, 69, 73, 76, 
9* 93> 123, 141, 169, 192 
early mining methods, 54-55, 68-69 
effect of World War on mining, 177 
elusiveness of reef, 194-197, 227 
establishment of first mines, 53 
great gold reef discovered, 42, 217, 230, 

299 

labor strikes, 169-190 
method of mine rescue, 289-292, 293 
mine disasters, 287-298 
permanency of, 82, 250-256, 262-265, 

284 
quality of mines, 178, 303 

Witwatersrand Native Labor Association, 
165 

Wood, William, 19 

Woolls-Sampson, 90 

World War, 169, 176, 177, 180 

Yellow Peril, the, 160-161 
Yokskei River, 23, 24, 29, 30 
Young, Mrs., 214 
Yuba River, 20 

Zebedcla, 30 
Zimbabwe, 301, 302 
Zoutpansbcrg, 18, 27, 30 
Zulu tribe, 19, 142 



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